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VOL. 36 | NO. 35 | Friday, August 31, 2012

Green reputation helps lure Chem-Dry office

By Hollie Deese

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Using such criteria as pollution prevention, land-use planning programs and green building programs, Living Green Magazine recently ranked Nashville No. 17 on its list of 30 Greenest Cities in America.

It’s this commitment to sustainable practices that helped draw Chem-Dry, the world’s largest carpet cleaning company, to open a regional office in the Gulch as it looked to expand its franchise base east of the Mississippi.

Chem-Dry’s parent company, Harris Research, Inc., moved into 8,500 square feet of new offices in the Braid Building in late June, and the fact that The Gulch was the first neighborhood in the south to be awarded LEED status for Neighborhood Development by the U.S. Green Building Council went along with the company’s own commitment to sustainability.

“There are a lot of benefits Nashville brings,” says Bill Zinke, vice president of marketing for Harris Research, Inc. “It is a growing market with a really strong and improving talent pool. It is in a central location in a well-known environmentally friendly and sustainable neighborhood, which is pretty unique. This commitment to being a sustainable environment goes in line with our company values.”

Founded in 1977, Chem-Dry uses a patented method of hot carbonated water extraction to clean carpet and upholstery. The founder, Robert Harris, invented it as an alternative to the standard method of steam cleaning, which shoots large amounts of water and detergents into a carpet before it is sucked out.

“He thought it could not be the most effective way to clean, let alone the most environmentally appropriate with all the water you are pushing in there,” Zinke says of Harris. “So he set out to find a better, more effective way to clean, which happened to have the benefit of being more environmentally friendly.”

The process uses 80 percent less water and cleaning solutions that are green-certified and listed on the FDA’s “Generally Recognized as Safe” list. And because there is so much less water used, carpets can dry faster.

“Steam cleaners push moisture into the backing of the carpets, and it takes several days for the carpets to dry, so it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, mold and mildew,” Sinke says. “Carpets cleaned with Chem-Dry take a couple of hours to dry rather than a couple of days. It creates a healthier home but is also easier and lighter on the environment.”

Chem-Dry has 1,100 franchisees in the US, with 2,200 locations. There are another 3,500 franchises globally. The Nashville office will eventually staff 20 employees. “There is still plenty of room for growth,” Zinke says.