MILLINOCKET, Maine — A $20 million factory proposed for the Huber Industrial Park slated eventually to employ 150 people will get a $903,480 federal stimulus tax credit when it goes on line, officials said Friday.
RE-Gen LLC of Rockport’s proposed factory is among 183 projects in 43 states that President Barack Obama awarded Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits to Friday through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. If all goes well, the factory will go on line by January 2012.
“This project will provide a significant economic boost to the Millinocket area once started,” U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, said in a statement Friday. “It will create much-needed jobs for the area in a field with a lot of growth potential. This tax credit will play an important role in helping make this facility a reality.”
Worth up to 30 percent of each planned project, the investment tax credits will leverage private capital for a total investment of nearly $7.7 billion in high-tech manufacturing nationwide, Michaud said.
The projects, Michaud said, will create tens of thousands of high-quality jobs through the domestic manufacture of advanced clean energy technologies including solar, wind and energy production technologies, such as RE-Gen’s environmentally friendly biomass gasification furnaces.
The Millinocket factory will make furnaces originally manufactured by Uniconfort of Italy that can produce 250,000 to 20 million Btu by burning low-grade, green waste-wood chips — made from treetops and limbs — not used by Maine’s paper and pellet mills, RE-Gen officials say.
The furnaces also can generate 440 kilowatts to 10 megawatts of electricity, if certain components are added, and burn landfill wastes. They are built to heat and electrify schools, hospitals, subdivisions and office buildings for at least 25 percent less than typical electric rates and heating with No. 2 heating oil.
The furnaces typically pay for themselves within as little as three years, according to uniconfort.com.
With its factory on line, RE-Gen anticipates installing 300 boiler gasification systems in the first five years. That will eliminate 16 million gallons of fossil fuel usage and reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 175,000 tons annually, U.S. Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine, said in a joint statement.
“This project will not only contribute to our nation’s goal of increased energy efficiency and reduced energy dependency on foreign oil, but go a long way in helping to create and retain jobs within the Millinocket region,” the senators said.
RE-Gen plans to begin building its Huber plant in late summer 2011 and to employ eight full-time factory workers on-site, plus seven biomass fuel suppliers, during its first year. At year three, 50 factory workers and 15 loggers and machine operators would be employed; at year five, 100 factory workers and 50 loggers and ma-chine operators would have jobs, RE-Gen officials have said.
Town Council Chairman Scott Gonya said the tax credit award helped reaffirm his belief that the RE-Gen project, though somewhat delayed, will become a reality.
“I realize that it takes a lot of pieces to put the puzzle together, and this is another piece to them getting their factory up and running,” Gonya said Friday.
Michael Kevin Lynch, chief marketing officer for RE-Gen, agreed.
“It’s wonderful that this is available to us,” he said.
RE-Gen officials had hoped to break ground on the factory late next summer, but a distribution and manufacturing deal with Uniconfort took longer than expected, Lynch said. Originally slated for ratification last fall, the agreement is being reviewed by the companies’ lawyers. It should be signed by Feb 1.
The agreement will give RE-Gen exclusive manufacturing and distribution rights in New England and New York and nonexclusive rights elsewhere, Lynch said.
Lynch could not specify how much private investment the tax credit will leverage.
RE-Gen is assembling financing and pursuing other state and federal funding to build the factory and its sales and distribution network while currently negotiating more than $10 million in contracts with prospective clients, he said.
Those deals should be completed soon after the Uniconfort deal is signed, he said.