It has taken a long time to clear all of the preliminary complications, but the Upper Peninsula is in line for a $300 million biofuel plant at the site of a former paper mill in Ontonagon.

Synsel Energy recently announced financial terms for the construction of the plant where the Smurfit-Stone paper mill once stood. The proposed refinery will create second-generation biofuels from pulp in the region, according to Synsel. 

Lost Bowl Development LLC owns the property of the proposed biofuel operation. Pat Tucker, representing the property owners, said he was unable to identify the investors because of a non-disclosure clause in the agreement. Lining up the funding to build the plant was a long and complicated process, but now the investors are ready to proceed with the unique venture in the U.P.

Lost Bowl Development is under contract to serve as a co-developer on the property. As many local contractors as possible will be hired to perform work on the development of the plant, however, some work will require specialized workers.

“We don’t have many locals that have built bio-refineries,” Tucker noted.

Hundreds of workers are expected to be retained during the construction phases. In the long-term, between 100 and 150 full-time jobs will be created once the plant is up and running.

The community will have the responsibilities, too, in preparing for the refinery. The railway will be reinstated, the harbor will be dredged and the airport runway will be extended to accommodate larger aircraft. 

Tucker praised Gov. Rick Synder and state agencies in helping put a plan together for building the biofuel plant. 

Hopefully, the patience exercised by the project leaders in Ontonagon and at the state level will have the plant be up and running without further delays. The plant should prove to be an economic boost for Ontonagon and the surrounding communities who have experienced harsh economic times in recent years.