Company seeks brownfield designation
DADE CITY - The owners of a company that turns chicken-plant castoffs into a low-pollution form of diesel fuel are looking for federal help retooling their operation at the Dade City Business Center.Agri-Source Fuels LLC recently got Dade City and Pasco County to back its appeal to the Environmental Protection Agency for a brownfield designation. The designation would cover the 150-acre business center - the former Pasco Beverage Co. juice plant - and nearby portions of the Tommytown neighborhood. By declaring the area a brownfield, city and county officials open the door to federal grants aimed at redeveloping the property. The EPA got millions in stimulus dollars last year to redevelop brownfield properties - industrial sites that may have contamination. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also offers businesses financial help with brownfield sites. Government officials and environmentalists often see redeveloping brownfield sites as a way to drive economic growth in urban areas and rein in the type of sprawl that would otherwise consume virgin land - so called "greenfield" sites on a city's edges.The brownfield program offers developers a raft of tax incentives and loan guarantees to encourage cleanup and redevelopment on polluted sites. Agri-Source officials weren't available Friday to talk about their plans. John Walsh, vice president of the Pasco Economic Development Council, said the brownfield designations will help Agri-Source get the financial backing it needs to buy its portion of the business center from owner Jim Guedry. Agri-Source has leased a section of the former juice plant since 2007. The company uses the plant's stainless steel storage tanks to hold its two products - biodiesel fuel and glycerin. For a brief moment in the summer of 2008, Agri-Sources fortunes were looking up as the price for petroleum-based diesel climbed beyond $5 a gallon. That made Agri-Source's higher-priced, low-pollution alternative more competitive. Falling fuel prices quickly took a bite out of Agri-Source's biodiesel plans, but have not done the company in. Commercial real estate agent Matt Hulbert of Zephyrhills has been working with the business center to secure the brownfield designations. The federal money attached to the designations could help Agri-Source hire new workers and expand its product line, Hulbert said. "The incentives provided through those programs would be a plus," Hulbert said.