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LaFrance Cleaners Commits to Investing in Environmental Upgrades Despite Pandemic
Youngstown (Mahoning County)
LaFrance Cleaners first heard about OAQDA and its Clean Air Resource Center through their soap vendor who spoke highly of the program. The third-generation, family-owned dry-cleaning business has served the Mahoning Valley area for 75 years and includes a central production facility, two stores and seven free pick-up and delivery routes.
“We knew we wanted to replace our old dry-cleaning equipment but wanted to wait until the right opportunity came along,” said Stephen Weiss, owner of LaFrance Cleaners. “We were excited to hear about this small business program that Ohio offered.”
During 2020, OAQDA closed on $100,000 in bond financing and provided a $20,000 grant to LaFrance Cleaners. Support from the Authority helped to replace outdated dry-cleaning equipment, which allowed the use of new, environmentally friendly solvents and eliminated the use of perchloroethyene (PERC), a chemical hazardous to human health.
“We replaced two cleaning machining with a sensing machine and a wet machine. Wet cleaning is a big trend right now because it offers more flexibility in the types of garments you can clean and it’s healthier for the environment,” said Weiss. “It cleans better than PERC, reduces odors and gives us brighter whites. I wish I had made this change a long time ago.”
The new equipment also allows LaFrance to provide a safer environment for employees while maintaining their excellent customer service. The company has been able to sustain 24 jobs.
Weiss is hopeful that more small business in Ohio will reach out to OAQDA for support.
“These are expensive changes, but it is important,” he adds. “As a small business owner, the health of our employees is vital. There are better, newer equipment options in the dry-cleaning industry that also are environmentally friendly. I am so glad we found this program.”