Marion provides TIF support for waste-to-biofuel firm Fiberight

$15-million facility will convert trash to ethanol

Rick Smith
Published: March 21 2014 | 4:29 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 9:58 am in

MARION — Waste-to-biofuel company Fiberight LLC moved a step closer this week to constructing a $15-million facility designed to grab the organic material in garbage to convert into ethanol at the company’s ethanol plant now being renovated in Blairstown.

Fiberight calls the ethanol it intends to produce "trashahol."

On Thursday evening, the Marion City Council agreed to provide the Maryland-based firm with an economic-development incentive worth up to $850,000 to help it build its 50,000-square-foot facility in Marion’s "eco-industrial" park at 44th Street and Third Avenue.

The money will come from new property taxes generated from Fiberight’s investment, a common economic-development incentive called tax increment financing or TIF.

Lon Pluckhahn, Marion’s city manager, on Friday said that the incentive package calls for the Marion Economic Development Co. (MEDCO) Holding Co. to serve as intermediary to allow Fiberight to obtain almost nine acres of land free of charge on which to build its plant.

Pluckhahn said the property taxes from Fiberight’s investment will pay off the funds for the land purchase in eight to nine years. Pluckhahn said that the repayment amount is likely to be $801,000, but the City Council this week approved up to $850,000 in financing if the land-purchase cost comes in higher than the current estimate.

Fiberight, he said, is expected to begin construction on its Marion waste recycling, sorting and shredding facility in June. It may be ready to accept garbage by December, the city manager said.

Craig Stuart-Paul, chief executive officer of Fiberight, was the keynote speaker at MEDCO’s annual meeting last week at which time he reported that the company is in the process of renovating the Blairstown ethanol plant so it is ready to accept organic material extracted from garbage hauled into the Marion facility.

Fiberight also is in negotiations with the city of Iowa City to extract organic waste from garbage taken to the Iowa City Landfill.

Stuart-Paul said Fiberight believes it can use about 80 percent of what is in a city’s waste stream with the remaining 20 percent to be hauled to the landfill.

In a statement, George Lake, MEDCO president, called the City Council’s approval of the local incentive for Fiberight "a major achievement for Fiberight and Marion."

Fiberight, he said, is bringing an "innovative technology" to create jobs in Marion and help the city move toward its goal of becoming a "zero-waste community."

"MEDCO has been proud to be of assistance to Fiberight and all companies looking to grow Marion and the Corridor," Lake said.

Fiberight has scaled back its Marion plans a bit from last year, but the first phase of the project is expected to create 26 jobs. A second phase, if built, will double the size of the Marion facility and add an additional 17 jobs, Pluckhahn.

In recent years, Marion has worked to land a company or companies that can do more with municipal solid waste and commercial solid waste than place most of it in a landfill. Marion does not want to see the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency have to one day expand its Site 2 landfill on Marion’s border.

In that regard, Marion has been negotiating with Plasma Power of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which is trying to commercialize a technology that zaps garbage into energy. With Plasma Power’s plans on hold, Marion has embraced Fiberight and its waste-to-energy model.

"This is the final piece for the Marion phase of the project," Pluckhahn said of the TIF help for Fiberight. "I think I can finally see the finish line."

Pluckhahn said Fiberight has estimated that it will be able to handle 350 tons of garbage a day, which is a little more than half of the amount that is taken in daily at the Solid Waste Agency’s landfill a few miles north of Fiberight’s Marion site.

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