North Central: All Systems Are Go for Growth
Florida's Central/Space Coast region grows new business on solid roots in aviation and tourism.
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Not only is necessity the mother of invention, it can also be the catalyst for creating new business. Consider, for example, the case of Gate Petroleum Company. In summer 2006, the rising cost of crude oil spurred this Jacksonville-based petroleum marketer to look at other sources for fuel. As a result, the company's subsidiary, Gate Ethanol LLC, is bringing an ethanol production facility to Hamilton County, just north of White Springs, in Florida's North Central region. Construction is expected to begin in March 2007, with ethanol shipping from Hamilton County by May 2008.
The $105 million project will turn corn, brought by rail from the Midwest, into 30 million gallons of fuel-grade ethanol annually. The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners welcomed the company to the area with nearly $5 million in tax abatement and $5.7 million in cash over 10 years. Hamilton County has also committed to work with the town of White Springs for water tie-in services. In addition, the county is assisting with grant applications to fund construction of additional traffic lanes on U.S. 41 north and south of the plant's entrance. The new facility will create 52 jobs with an annual payroll of $2.7 million. Gate Petroleum is also applying for Qualified Target Industry (QTI) Tax Refund dollars and assistance with streamlined permitting.
|Facts & Figures|
Source: U.S. Census Bureau; Demographics USA 2005, TradeDimensions International Inc.; Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation. EBI = effective buying/disposable income.
"We are grateful for the warm reception we have received in Hamilton County," says R.B. "Buzz" Hoover, president of Gate Ethanol LLC. "The investment we are making in this area will be great for our future business. The jobs we will provide and other goods and services we will consume will be a big boost for this area--it's a win-win situation!"
With its more than 225 company-owned and dealer service station/convenience stores stretching from Flo-rida to Kentucky, Gate Petroleum is one of the highest volume retailers in the Southeast. It plans to purchase all of the ethanol produced by its subsidiary in Hamilton County.
Geographically, Hamilton County makes good sense for Gate's ethanol site. "We needed rail access to accommodate the approximately 65 rail cars of corn each week," Hoover explains.
"We also needed infrastructure to easily transport the ethanol to our Orlando and Jacksonville retail markets, as well as the truckloads of wood chips that will be delivered to the plant each week. The access Hamilton County has with the railroads and I-75 and its proximity to I-10 made it a great choice."
The 70-acre site will include six integrated manufacturing buildings as well as an administrative office building. Six deep wells will pump the 600,000 gallons of water needed each day for the plant. At the same time, less than 200,000 gallons of wastewater will be generated daily and sent to retention or percolation ponds.
Proximity to four major universities makes the North Central region prime for research facilities.
All of the energy for the plant will be produced by four gasifier/boiler units, which will burn more than 500 tons of wood chips each day. No fossil fuels will be used, and Gate Ethanol has committed to removing any pollutants from the smoke produced by the heat/power plant.
The company has also invested in a process patented by Greenstock Resources to make the most out of every single kernel of corn.
"Traditional ethanol plants take the most starch-enriched kernels and discard the rest," says Hoover. "Our process will put those highest starch kernels into the ethanol stream and use the rest for other marketable by-products such as high-end dog food, unrefined corn oil and carbon dioxide."
The arrival of Gate Ethanol is just the beginning for this 13-county area.