St. Joe agreement 'game changer' for port

Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 09:20 AM.

Green Circle operates the world’s second-largest wood pellet plant in Cottondale. The company employs 81 at the plant with several hundred indirect jobs and more than $70 million injected into the local economy, according to the release.

The wood pellets produced at the new production facility can be transported via truck or railway to the Port of Port St. Joe for shipment to overseas markets, particularly Europe where the consumption of wood chips for energy is exploding.

"We are excited about the possibility of leveraging our strong presence in Northwest Florida, further job and economic development in the region, and look forward to the successful dredging improvements of the shipping channel," said Morten Neraas, CEO for Green Circle Bio Energy, Inc.

Additionally, bulk cargo port facilities are being considered for development at the port site to accommodate Green Circle's shipping needs. The Florida Ports Council, in its annual report, noted that the Port of Port St. Joe is positioned for bulk cargo shipments, offering access to rail, the U.S. Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and state and federal highways.

State and federal elected officials also weighed in on the announcement.

"This is great news for Port St. Joe and our surrounding region," said Congressman Steve Southerland. "By building upon Northwest Florida's tremendous potential, both as a world leader in biomass production and a natural fit for rail, road, and waterway shipping, The St. Joe Company and Green Circle have made an important commitment to growing jobs and strengthening our local economy."

Gov. Rick Scott this week vetoed a $2 million appropriation which would have helped the Port Authority meet mortgage requirements on the barge terminal parcel. The effort sponsored by Capital City Bank and supported by the Port Authority, was aimed at providing time and space for the port to grow. The case now returns to its previous status, heading to a Circuit Court hearing at which each Capital City Bank and Port Authority are seeking summary judgments in their favor. A court date is not known at this time.

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