Officials are hoping there’s still a future for the biodiesel plant in Beatrice, which will be closing later this month.
Walker Zulkoski, director of the NGage economic development group, shared his thoughts on the announcement with the Gage County Board of Supervisors during the board’s Wednesday meeting.
Despite the announcement that nearly 40 jobs are being lost as the plant closes, Zulkoski is hopeful the plant will someday be put back into service.
“They say indefinitely, I think they’re just trying to see what this market does,” he said. “With the tariffs and commodity prices being low it’s certainly putting stress on the product that they’re trying to sell. But they have a really expensive asset. I think they want to get it back up and going as quickly as they can. Right now I think it just comes down to a marketplace thing. Until they have the ability to sell that product they can’t run that plant. But they spent a lot of money on it. I’m sure they want it to run."
The company invested more than $100 million into retrofitting the plant.
Flint Hills Resources announced Monday that the company plans to idle its Duonix biodiesel plant in Beatrice.
The plant is expected to cease production this month and will remain idle indefinitely, according to a statement from Flint Hills resources.
The Beatrice Duonix plant specializes in processing corn oil and greases into biodiesel. Low soybean prices, the primary feedstock for most other biodiesel producers, have put the Duonix plant at a “significant competitive disadvantage” and the company does not expect those conditions to change.
The statement added that government intervention in the marketplace, including the federal blenders tax credit, continues to create uncertainty for the business.
The plant was originally built in 2008, but wasn't initially finished and never operated.
The plant was initially constructed at a cost of $50 million, then sent to auction and purchased for $5 million.
Duonix Beatrice, a joint venture between Flint Hills Resources, which is a subsidiary of Koch Industries Inc. and Benefuel Inc., purchased the plant in 2011 and started production five years later.
Zulkoski pointed out that many other industrial companies in Gage County are thriving, citing recent growth from Exmark, Precise Fabrication and Landmark Snacks as some examples.
“Really, you could throw a dart in the industrial park or at any of the manufacturers around the county and within the next three years every one of them has a plan to expand, whether it be investment, equipment, building or employees,” Zulkoski said. “Most of it comes down to equipment and trying to find better ways to use the employees that they have to continue to grow.”
County Board Chairman Erich Tiemann added that housing studies that identified a need for more homes in Beatrice have drawn developers to the area and resulted in several areas of new construction.
“I’m not a big supporter of those (studies) usually, but it did bring some outside developers in and it looks like that’s going to happen again,” he said.
Tiemann said there were around 70 new homes built in the last year and 33 that are being built, compared to just a handful when he served on the Beatrice City Council around five years ago.