A company planning to make wood pellets for fuel at the former Louisiana Pacific plant in Center has acquired the property, but the company has changed names, principals and created a lot of confusion among county leaders dealing with the project.
The Jackson County Industrial Development Authority got an update — such as was available based on limited facts — last Friday.
“They’ve bought the real estate, they have plans and we expect to hear from them,” said the IDA’s attorney, Daniel Haygood. “(Their attorney) said they’ve not been paid, I’ve not been paid, and they may have some work to be done on the (tax) abatement proceedings. …They have not paid anybody, including their own attorney.”
IDA chairman Scott Martin said the company, formerly known as Atlantic Wood Pellets “had an infusion of money” and reformatted under a new name with some new management. “There is still some of the same management there, but not the same leadership,” Martin added.
The new company is Waycross-based E-Pellets Group, LLC, which, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, paid $13 million for the plant and plans to spend another $150 million to retrofit it.
The question for the IDA is the status of the tax abatements, since there is essentially an altogether different legal entity involved.
“We have not been paid any of our fees,” Martin noted. “With that being said, everything is up in the air as far as abatements. My understanding is they’re doing work out there. We’re just waiting to see how it evolves. I’m sure something is going to happen, but I’m not sure what it’s going to look like.”
“Until the fees are paid, there is not an abatement,” Haygood stressed.
The night before the IDA met, a representative of E-Pellets came before the Jackson County Water and Sewerage Authority.
Benny Easterlin, who identified himself as the company’s senior vice president for development, appeared before the authority seeking mitigation of an authority demand that the company install a backflow preventer on a six-inch meter he said the company will soon remove.
Because the plant’s fire suppression line is not physically connected to the county water system, the authority ultimately agreed to install a two-inch meter, with the company providing the backflow preventer at a considerable cost reduction over the cost of a six-inch backflow preventer. At some point, the company will meet with the authority to determine what its ongoing water needs will be.
Easterlin said there will be “no industrial action for over 14 months,” at the plant. The company, he said, will grade some 17.5 acres in the front of the facility, tear down a third of the existing building, install a new kind of fire suppression system and will remove all water lines related to LP’s former operations. “We have no connection to water other than five toilets and the sinks,” he said.
Easterlin told the IDA that the company "should be delivering pellets to the ports in 14 months” and “should be operational in 12 months.” The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported that E-Pellets will produce 450,000 metric tons of pellets annually, which will be exported to the European Union for use in generating electricity. The company has a contract with Georgia Kaolin Terminal, Inc., to export its product through the port at Savannah. Easterlin said the company will have 65 employees.
For the full story, see the Aug. 20 edition of The Commerce News.