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Gulf Oil Spill Boon To Giant Sponge Industry
TALAHASEE, Fla. (CAP) - The massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico threatens an economic and ecological disaster on tourist beaches, wildlife refuges and fishing grounds in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. But it's not all doom and gloom in the Gulf - the accident has proven a godsend to one ailing business, Giant Sponge Unlimited LLC.
"They say there's always a silver lining, and in this case I have to say that spill really saved our bacon," said the company's founder, Fred Prywatki, who so far has provided more than 1,000 giant sponges to the cleanup effort. "My mother always asked me, who's ever going to need that many giant sponges? And I never really had a good answer for her.
"Until today," said Prywatki, smiling broadly and folding his arms behind his head.
The company responsible for the spill, BP Global of Great Britain, "will pay us pretty much whatever we ask," explained Prywatki, whose company is the only manufacturer of giant sponges (many of them roughly 100 feet in diameter) in the Western Hemisphere.
He noted BP's willingness to pay handsomely for his product represents a big change from his last venture, Fred's Science Museum in Woburn, Mass., which closed after three months. "There it was tough to get people to pay a measly four bucks admission, even when we threw in Pizza Hut coupons," he explained.
BP has tried numerous methods to contain the spill, including Prywatki's sponges, a giant metal dome lowered over the spill area, and millions of rolls of Bounty paper towels dropped from helicopters.
"We had to stop that last one because they were knocking the oil-covered turtles unconscious," explained BP Chief Executive Tony Hayward, looking noticeably pale while lighting a cigarette with a shaky right hand. "That's considered bad form among environmentalists, evidently."
Taking a long drag and then rubbing his furrowed temple with his free hand, Hayward added, "It's a good thing I got a $32 million bonus last year, or this would all be very hard to stomach."
Meanwhile, Prywatki - who started his giant sponge business after his science museum closed, leaving him with dozens of leftover remnants from his Room of Giant Sponges - says he's prepared to provide tremendous, extremely expensive sponges for as long as they're needed.
"We're also working with the guys who make the giant domes [Giant Dome Unlimited LLC of Mobile, Ala.] to make a giant, sponge-lined dome - BP has said it will pay whatever it takes to get it up quickly, before the public has to see - how did they put it? One more bloody dead oily bird."
"Blasted bloody dead oily birds," confirmed Hayward while pounding a gimlet.
But the cleanup is only the beginning for Prywatki, who just signed an agreement with MTV Networks, owner of the Nickelodeon channel, for a massive, multi-million-dollar tie-in with their popular SpongeBob Squarepants character.
"Until you've seen a 100-foot SpongeBob being lowered head-first into the Gulf of Mexico, well, you haven't seen anything," said Prywatki. "I know my mother certainly hasn't."