MILLINOCKET, Maine — A Rockport housing developer will meet with Gov. John Baldacci early next month to solicit support for a $20 million biomass furnace factory he hopes to build in Huber Industrial Park next year, Town Manager Eugene Conlogue said Monday.
Town Council Chairman Scott Gonya and at least one other council member will be present for the meeting, Conlogue said.
“It basically is just an informational meeting to acquaint the governor with the project,” Conlogue said Monday. “We thought that a face-to-face meeting would be helpful in that respect.”
The governor is looking forward to the meeting and to learning about the project, his spokesman said Monday.
The council on June 25 endorsed the plan of Joseph M. Cloutier, president of RE-Gen LLC of Rockport, to secure up to $10 million in federally tax-exempt bonds through the Finance Authority of Maine to help create the factory. Cloutier announced the plan earlier that month.
RE-Gen company officials continue to assemble their financing and marketing plans as they await a state review of their bond program, they said recently. They are working hard to get their plans done as quickly as possible.
The project, councilors said, would generate $300,000 in local tax revenues annually and be a tonic for a depressed Katahdin region economy reeling from paper mill layoffs and shutdowns. It could spark other industries, including hydroponic greenhouses, wholesale electricity manufacture and any form of light manufacturing that employs large amounts of industrial electricity at the park.
Under Cloutier’s plan, the 50,000-square-foot factory would employ welders, fabricators, service technicians and administrators to build Italian-designed, enviro-friendly biomass gasification furnaces capable of generating 700,000 to 5 million Btu. The units would be large and efficient enough to heat schools, hospitals and of-fice and apartment buildings for a fraction of the cost it takes to heat with No. 2 heating oil, Cloutier has said.
Woodsmen also would provide the very low-grade green waste-wood chips (up to 80 percent moisture) that would burn in the ultra-high-heat furnaces, he has said.
Larger units capable of generating as much as 20 million Btu, which would manufacture enough electricity to sell to the New England power grid, also would be available and distributed, but not manufactured, at the site, Cloutier said.
If all goes well, the plant would be built by 50 construction workers in late summer 2010 and employ eight full-time workers on-site, plus seven biomass fuel suppliers. At year three, 50 factory workers and 15 loggers and machine operators would be employed; at year five, 100 factory workers and 50 woodsmen would have jobs, according to the executive summary of Cloutier’s plan.
The town is under no financial risk in working with RE-Gen, Conlogue and councilors have stressed. Under the federal industrial revenue bond program, a municipality and state must approve the application to show that the bonds will provide jobs or some other form of economic development to a town or region.
A company can seek industrial revenue bonds in an amount up to the cost of any capital improvement, solid waste control or pollution control project. Industrial revenue bonds are tax-exempt, low-interest loans paid back by businesses over a long period of time, typically more than 20 years.
By supporting the bond, the town and FAME would not be liable for payment of the bonds if the corporation defaults on them, officials said. Instead, the company would put up a guarantee — a payback agreement — on the bonds.