Appalachian Biofuels LLC will open in St. Paul; 40 new jobs expected

Source: By ALLIE ROBINSON GIBSON | BRISTOL HERALD COURIER, Bristol, Virginia • Posted: Friday, October 31, 2014

A new energy company — that hopes to hire former coal miners to fill its 40 jobs — is setting up shop in St. Paul.

Appalachian Biofuels LLC, a company that will produce biodiesel, will invest some $3.5 million to establish its headquarters and production facility in Russell County. The facility is the former Bush building, near the McDonald’s restaurant, which has been vacant for some time.

The company processes waste feedstock material — used oil and oil products — and refines it using an enzyme, which was developed and manufactured in Israel, to create the biodiesel, officials said. The biofuel can be blended with petroleum diesel fuel, per federal government mandates, and run engines that would typically require diesel fuel.

Chuck Lessin, president and CEO of Appalachian Biofuels, said the company wants to hire former coal miners to fill the 40 jobs expected to be created once the company is fully operational, which company officials said will be soon.

“We are proud to be hiring former coal miners in the region who will transfer their significant experience in mining energy underground to our new green energy above ground in beautiful Russell County,” he said. “We are excited to call Virginia our home, and we hope to grow and expand our business here.”

The Virginia Israel Advisory Board and its director, Ralph Robbins, connected the company to the region, Lessin said.

Gov. Terry MacAuliffe approved a $200,000 grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund to help Russell County secure the company. Virginia successfully beat out South Carolina to get the manufacturer, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

“The addition of a new company and job creator in Russell County is tremendous for a region that has been hard hit by economic loss,” McAuliffe said in the statement. “Appalachian Biofuels has the advantage of locating its headquarters and center of operations in a formerly vacant facility that can be retrofitted to meet its needs, allowing for quick start-up to production.”

The Virginia Tobacco Commission also helped fund the project — it approved $210,000 in the Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund, or TROF, to get the company going. TROF money is administered through the local governing body and must be repaid if the business fails.

The company also qualifies for rail access funding from the Virginia Department of Rails and Public Transportation.

Harry Rutherford, chairman of the Industrial Development Authority of Russell County, thanked the various state and local agencies that helped bring the company to the county.

“We are able to see people working and money invested in a building that has been empty for years,” he said. “This is a winner for all. Unemployed coal miners are going back to work, a green energy facility [is] keeping a waste product out of our landfills [and it represents an] increased tax base and a morale booster for people of the area.”