About 100 members of the St. Joseph agribusiness community came together on Oct. 17 to celebrate the grand opening of HPB-St. Joe BioDiesel, a new addition to the Stockyards Industrial Area that employs 50 people.
HPB-St. Joe BioDiesel, a subsidiary of Seaboard, purchased the former Blue Sun BioDiesel facility. Blue Sun had closed its doors and the plant was purchased out of bankruptcy. HPB has made significant improvements to the efficiency of the plant, as well as cosmetic improvements.
The Chamber was instrumental in facilitating productive discussions between HPB and the City of St. Joseph to address wastewater issues that permitted the facility to meet its start-up production goal. Buchanan County provided $35,000 in forgivable economic development loan funds to provide training opportunities for new employees. The facility also is eligible for the City of St. Joseph enhanced enterprise zone.
HPB-St. Joe BioDiesel has created 50 new jobs with an average annual wage of $51,600 plus benefits.
Gary Lewis, Executive Vice President of Seaboard, said that the company decided to get involved in the biodiesel business to become a more integrated company. It opened its first biodiesel plant in Guymon, Oklahoma, in 2008.
“This opportunity came up with Blue Sun and we had an excellent team in Guymon and we wanted to capitalize on that,” he said.
Mel Davis, of Seaboard, said the deal to purchase Blue Sun’s property closed on June 26 and they had no employees at that time. In 90 days, a combination of former Blue Sun employees and new employees were able to produce the first gallon of biodiesel.
Biodiesel is made of animal fat and vegetable oils and works well in diesel engines and is a great fuel additive, said Bill Patrick, Senior Director of Operations over the St. Joseph and Guymon plants.
“The effort we’ve put forth is tremendous,” Patrick said. “Our goal is to produce as many gallons of biodiesel as possible.”
While animal fat from Daily’s Premium Meats and Triumph Foods and their St. Joseph location are definitely positives for biodiesel production, the mixture that is made here will consist of more corn oil than what is made in the Guymon plant. This mixture will be able to be sold to customers all year long, where the animal fat mixture has some difficulties in certain climates, Lewis said.