Articles

Message from Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Frank Holcomb

- Posted: 02/18/10
Much has been said over the past several weeks regarding the proposed biopower plant in the City of Gretna. It is time to set the record straight. After meeting with ADAGE and obtaining the information we requested, the Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors—representing a diverse cross section of the Gadsden County business community—voted unanimously to support this project.

As some have pointed out, this project is a natural extension of the Obama Administration’s new energy plan (http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/obama-announces-steps-boost-biofuels-clean-coal), announced just weeks ago. The plan calls for a comprehensive strategy to enhance American energy independence, create millions of new jobs, and launch a clean energy economy. Highlighting the need for significant investment in renewable energy including biopower facilities and technology like ADAGE’s, the plan reiterates the benefits of using local resources to make clean energy and prioritizes biopower as a major part of our energy portfolio. The ADAGE Gadsden project is a perfect example of how Florida can play a role in our nation’s new clean energy economy…

The State of Florida (http://www.floridafarmtofuel.com/) has emphasized biopower too, statutorily creating the widely-respected “Farm to Fuel” initiative to promote the production, distribution, and use of renewable energy from Florida-grown crops such as clean wood. This forward-thinking energy policy has allowed Florida to capitalize on the renewable energy movement that has rapidly emerged across the nation.

Over the coming weeks, the people of Gretna, Gadsden County, Leon County, and other neighboring counties will have the opportunity to hear from ADAGE representatives, medical professionals, environmental stakeholders, the forestry and agriculture industries, and from elected officials. You’ll hear from economic development experts and emissions experts. You can submit your question via ADAGE’s email query address, info@adagebiopower.com. You’ll get a personal response.

The business community and others have made it clear that we need a public forum for open discussion, and we will announce plans for such a forum shortly.

In the meantime, here is why I support ADAGE’s proposed Gadsden County biopower project:

As a father, a businessman, a taxpayer, a citizen of Gadsden County, and a member of the Chamber of Commerce, I have carefully considered many aspects of this proposed renewable energy facility. While the Chamber exists to promote economic development, we are also charged—and proudly so—with maintaining and improving the environmental amenities that make Gadsden County so special.

Our board asked ADAGE representatives to meet with us and provide an opportunity for unlimited information exchange so we could develop informed views. We abided by one simple rule: The Chamber would not lend the business community’s support to a project unless that project created jobs and economic development in a safe, environmentally-sensitive way.

The Chamber Board asked tough questions. In return, we’ve received straightforward, fact-based, verifiable answers from ADAGE.

The Chamber Board asked for credible sources of information from sources like the Florida Forestry Association, which notes (http://www.suwanneedemocrat.com/suwannee/local_story_028083444.html), “The potential for greater wood use is a positive sign that more forests will be growing here. To sustain Florida's forests, landowners will need economic incentives to stay on the land. Producing a continuous supply of trees for wood, paper, energy and other products society demands is key to keeping our forests healthy and sustainable."

Moreover, the Union of Concerned Scientists states (http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/technology_and_impacts/energy_technologies/how-biomass-energy-works.html), “In addition to the many environmental benefits, biomass offers many economic and energy security benefits. By growing our fuels at home, we reduce the need to import oil and reduce our exposure to disruptions in that supply.”

I could go on and on about the environmental organizations that support biomass for renewable energy but the most important thing is what the community wants.

The Chamber Board sought to maximize the project’s countywide and regional economic impact. ADAGE has, in turn, committed to remaining in our community for at least 20 years, cementing that commitment with direct economic assistance to support community development projects. This is not only a long-time partnership; it is an enduring source of economic development and jobs for the people of our community.

We support the project’s economic development potential, including an analysis showing that, during just the first two and a half years, the project will generate:

•          $22 million in direct income
•          Over $6 million in indirect income
•          Over 700 direct and indirect jobs across the Gadsden County economy
•          $4 million annually in local and state taxes

Over the first ten years, the project will generate more than $12 million in taxes for our local schools. The Gadsden County school district is hurting, and adding a significant new taxpayer to the rolls is not something we should take lightly, especially when we are laying off teachers. Last year, the Gadsden County School District considered cutting 70 positions (http://www.wctv.tv/schools/headlines/45431352.html) because the budget was so tight. While federal stimulus money ultimately cushioned the blow a little, this is still by far the most challenging shortfall Gadsden County has faced in generations.

As the Chamber works to attract and retain businesses in our community, it is critically important that our City Commission and County Commission continue to support our efforts. We must support those businesses who want to become a community partner.

ADAGE seeks to invest in Gadsden County—paying millions in tax dollars for Gadsden County schools, supporting workforce development initiatives, and serving as good corporate citizens and champions for Gadsden County.

If Gadsden County doesn’t want ADAGE’s investment, a neighboring county will no doubt welcome it.

I urge our officials to keep an open mind, receive the facts, and ultimately show bold leadership in the face of opportunity. Please visit www.adagebiopower.com for more information.

Frank Holcomb is Chairman of the Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors