How spring water rejuvenated an old mining town in Idaho
Mackay, Idaho — Hidden in Idaho's White Knob Mountains, you'll find what's left of the copper and silver mines that first put the small town of Mackay on the map.
"There were over 1,200 people living on this mountain," Mayor Wayne Olsen said.
Now, he said, it's "just the squirrels."
Olsen brought CBS News to the mountains to show the town's past and what he hopes is its future in the valley below. There, water sustainably harvested from a local spring, is bottled and recycled in American-sourced aluminum. It is then shipped around the country by people like sixth-generation "Mackayan" Kelvin Krosch.
"Our water is second to none — just the taste and natural purification," Krosch said.
Locally, it's celebrated for helping bring new life to a town that, like its mines, nearly shuttered.
"The city was about to have to close a school down because there wasn't anything here and not enough students in the school," said Ryan Donahue, co-founder of Proud Source Water.
Donahue, a Mackay native, asked his friend CJ Pennington for help.
"It wasn't from a place of, 'Hey, I have a great business idea and I'm going to make all this money. Come join me.' It was, 'I need to create 10 jobs!'" Pennington said.
In 2016, the city offered Proud Source a license for water access and a five-year incentive: Create five full-time jobs while using no more than 5% of the spring's water, and the city would give them the deed to the land for their bottling plant.
They've created 32 jobs since then. The company projects sales of $50 million this year.
"I think we're the largest employer in Mackay," Donahue said.
There's also been a ripple effect. Last year's senior graduating class was more than double the one just three years earlier.
"We've got quite a few new families," Olsen said. "We've got a lot of new construction going around. I love to hear hammers and saws because that means there's progress."