County gets new industry

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Gas Concepts to hire 100, $45K average salary

By Cassandra Mickens

The Selma Times-Journal

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Gov. Bob Riley was in Selma Tuesday afternoon to welcome what he calls a

“revolutionary” industry to the Alabama Black Belt.

New Gas Concepts, Inc. (NGC), a renewable fuel production company, announced the construction of a wood pellet mill at the Alabama State Docks facility on the Alabama River in Dallas County. An estimated $60 million capital investment, NGC will employ approximately 100 people with an average salary of $45,000 per year, Riley said, adding mill construction and indirect jobs will initially generate over 500 jobs in Dallas County.

NGC manufactures wood pellet fuel – a renewable, clean-burning and cost stable home heating alternative mostly made of recycled wood waste. According to the Pellet Fuels Institute Web site, more than 600,000 homes in North America use wood pellets for heat in freestanding stoves, fireplace inserts and furnaces. However, European demand for oil alternatives prompted NGC to begin an international search for locations to meet customer requests.

NGC reviewed sites in Brazil, Indonesia, Central America and Louisiana before deciding on Dallas County, said NGC President and CEO Evan Bates. Bates admitted he was skeptical of Dallas County at first, but was won over by the quality, commitment and work ethic of the people.

“We are excited about Dallas County, Alabama and the unique opportunities offered by the region,” Bates said. “We have found a place with a wealth of natural resources, ready access to transportation and a supportive business environment from our Congressional delegation to the local county officials and business community.

“Whether we needed help with infrastructure or simply a place to make a phone call, the community stepped up beyond our expectations. They made themselves the perfect place to make this investment.”

Riley said the NGC’s arrival is a testament to the workforce, infrastructure and leadership of Selma and Dallas County as well as the area’s new economic attitude.

“You have now developed a new type of reputation – that we will compete with anyone, anywhere, anytime if we’re given the opportunity to do so,” he said.

The mill is expected to begin production in the fourth quarter of 2007 and will produce more than 200,000 tons of wood pellets per year for export to Europe. Bates said NGC is considering opening another Alabama mill, on which construction is expected to begin in late 2007.

Several city and county officials were present during Riley’s announcement, including Mayor James Perkins Jr. and Probate Judge Johnny Jones. Perkins said the mill construction will revitalize an abandoned grain elevator and riverfront dock that closed decades ago and significantly increase the use of the Alabama River for cargo transportation.

“With this announcement, once again, the Alabama River will become a major economic engine for Selma and the Black Belt,” Perkins said. “It will take its rightful place as a navigable channel for industrial cargo transport.”