Friday July 7, 2006

Ethanol plant to help fuel Oswego County economy

Officials hail project as economic development breakthrough
By Lou Sorendo

    Fulton is being placed on the map once again.

    This time, it’s not for production of beer or chocolate or championship wrestling teams. It’s for ethanol.

    Fulton is quickly becoming the site of the Northeast’s first ethanol plant, and local officials are hailing it as a major economic development initiative. Area officials are hailing Thursday’s announcement regarding ethanol production at the former Miller Brewing Co. plant in Volney as an economic development breakthrough.

    Northeast Biofuels has teamed with Canadian ethanol manufacturer Permolex International, L.P. to create the first ethanol plant in the Northeast. It is scheduled to be operational within 17 months.

    Northeast Biofuels has successfully raised $200 million to convert the Miller Brewing Co. into an ethanol-producing facility. The lure of homegrown fuel is a powerful one considering that gas costs $3 a gallon in many parts of the country and much of the oil-producing world is locked in chaos.

    Gov. George E. Pataki is intent on taking the lead regarding ethanol production in the Northeast, and the Fulton plant is one of the projects in the region that is closest to completion. Even oil-friendly President Bush has seemingly joined the ethanol bandwagon. In his State of the Union address, he supported the production of ethanol using chips from willow trees.

    The goal locally is to use willow chips to make paper at the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga and then ship a syrupy byproduct to Fulton, where it can be brewed into ethanol, also known as grain alcohol. New environmental regulations are resulting in a rise in demand for ethanol this year as a replacement for Methyl tert-butyl ether, a gasoline additive known as MTBE that has been associated with groundwater contamination.

    Northeast Biofuels acquired the plant six years ago, but the company encountered problems because potential investors were unfamiliar with renewable fuels.

    The partnership recently received a $3 million loan from the pension funds of two union locals in the Syracuse region who see jobs in the reconstruction of the brewery. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 43, and the United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters, Local 73, were recently awarded by Operation Oswego County for facilitating production of ethanol at the Riverview Business Park.

    Russ Johnson, chairman of the Oswego County Legislature, said most of the 300 construction jobs and 50 permanent jobs look to be filled by local workers. In addition, service businesses such as hotels and restaurants will prosper as a result of the development, he said.

    Johnson said he would like to see spin-off businesses also move into the Riverview Business Park, which encompasses about 500 acres. The ethanol project will be using approximately 90 acres.

    “Ethanol production is consistent with President Bush’s vision of lessening our addiction to oil,” Johnson said.

    Fulton Mayor Daryl Hayden said Thursday’s announcement regarding ethanol production in Oswego County will give a boost to the region in terms of economic development. “Jobs are one of our major concerns in the region and this will help tremendously,” he said.

    Oswego County has traditionally featured the highest unemployment rates among the 62 counties in New York state. Hayden said the influx of new people affiliated with the project as well as spin-off businesses will also result in jobs and help solidify the tax base in the Fulton-Volney-Granby region.

    Arthur Ospelt, county legislator for the 12th District, agrees with Johnson and Ospelt that the creation of jobs is certainly the foremost benefit the county will enjoy as a result of the project. “Jobs are always a good thing, while farmers and truckers who will provide supplies will also benefit,” he said.

    “In terms of agriculture, it’s another way to use corn,” he added.

    Ethanol is used as an additive to gasoline that makes it burn cleaner. There has been a movement to make ethanol more widely available as a primary motor fuel rather than selling it as just an additive.

    David Turner, head of the county’s economic development, tourism and planning department, said the county will enjoy several benefits in regards to the ethanol project. The primary benefit will be job creation, Turner noted.

    “A lot of folks think manufacturing needs to signify 200, 300 or 400 jobs. That’s not the case in rural America,” he said. He said initiatives which create 50 to 100 manufacturing jobs represent significant advancement in an economy such as Oswego County has.

    In addition, construction jobs associated with the project will be a boon to the economy. “This will provide more disposable income in our community,” he said.

    Turner said the development opens up ample opportunities in the agricultural field. While corn production certainly looks more lucrative to growers, Turner said the advent of biomass and use of chips from willow trees will create additional opportunities never realized before.

    “Our very rich soil will return to productive use,” he said. Additionally, Turner noted demand for supplies for the plant will help enhance the small business sector in the county. For example, he said equipment dealers and repair specialists will benefit immensely.

    Turner said an often overlooked benefit will be increased volume in rail traffic. This increase, he said, will drive down the cost of shipping by rail for all manufacturers in Oswego County.

    “They will have access to shipping prices by rail that they wouldn’t have otherwise,” he noted. “The county will become more competitive with respect to its ability to draw new employers,” he said.

Oswego County Business Magazine
Issue 164

Issue 164
October/November 2019

Cover Story

  • Cruse Control
  • Jeff Cruse takes over as top leader for Novelis’ Oswego Works


Linda Eagan

On The Job

What type of marketing do you find most effective?

Success Stories

The Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County

My Turn

Why President Trump Won’t Admit Mistakes


News Briefs on Local Businesses & Business People

Economic Trends

Oswego County IDA Recapitalizes Popular Loan Program

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Rodmon King