Grow it here, make it here

Feb 21, 2012

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow visited Kettering's Innovation Center to advance Michigan's bio-based manufacturing.

Provost Simpson speaksU.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, came to Kettering University Feb. 21 to announce new Grow it Here, Make it Here initiatives to advance Michigan’s emerging bio-based manufacturing industry.

Stabenow said bio-based manufacturing, using agriculture goods to make value-added products, is an industry poised to grow and create jobs in Michigan.  Last fall,  she announced her first Grow it Here, Make it Here initiative, which would create a new tax cut for Michigan companies that invest in new facilities or purchase equipment to manufacture bio-based products. Her new initiatives would increase access to capital for bio-based manufacturers, improve marketing of bio-based products and spur the commercialization of new agricultural innovations to create new jobs.

Stabenow announced her initiatives at a news conference in Kettering's Innovation Center, where she was joined by representatives from the University, Swedish Biogas International, Landaal Packaging Systems, Flint Mayor Dayne Walling and the Bio Alliance Council.  Dr. Jennifer Aurandt, associate professor of Biochemistry, gave Stabenow a tour of lab facilities in the Innovation Center. Student Olivia Hayden and Ben Wagner '11 assisted in the tour.

Stabenow’s Grow it Here, Make it Here initiatives include a new effort to increase the number of Biopreferred products, products that are certified and labeled so consumers can choose to purchase goods made of agriculture materials. Today, she joined with President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in announcing a 50 percent increase in government purchases of new bio-based products.

“When we grow things here and make things here, we create jobs here in Michigan," Stabenow said.  "Incubators like Kettering University’s Innovation Center are partnering with Michigan innovators like Swedish Biogas and can be a hub for new bio-based manufacturers that are making things with Michigan-grown products. We are at the forefront of bio-based manufacturing, and my initiatives will help businesses who want to invest and create new jobs here in America.”

Tom Guise, CEO of Swedish Biogas International, served as emcee for the press conference.  He said: “By using innovative technology, such as anaerobic digestion, to convert food and other organic waste into bio-fuel, Swedish Biogas is creating new jobs in the Flint area while lowering energy costs. I want to commend Senator Stabenow for focusing on expanding bio-fuels and bio-based manufacturing here in Michigan.”

Bob Landaal, vice president of Sales and Marketing for Landaal Packaging Systems said: “Landaal packaging currently sells green cell foam to customers that seek thermal protection for items that need temperature regulation and customers seeking shock, vibration, and cushioning protection. We appreciate Senator Stabenow’s work to help Michigan companies make a difference in this global market place. Grow it Here, Make it Here is a great example.”  Landaal Packaging Systems is a bio-based manufacturer in Burton, Mich., that is a leader in green, biodegradable packaging.

Stabenow with studentsKettering Provost Robert Simpson said: “Flint and Kettering University will be better able to create new technologies and skilled experts in bio-manufacturing, under Senator Stabenow's new provisions. As a manufacturing center of excellence, Flint has been a national leader in both production innovations and distribution logistics. By bringing cutting edge manufacturing advances into agriculture, we will be creating jobs and boosting Michigan's farm industry at the same time.”

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling said: “Senator Stabenow is a strong champion for investing in Michigan’s economy and putting people back to work. Senator Stabenow supported the new Center for Energy Excellence in the City of Flint at Kettering University to develop innovative ways to produce bio-energy.”

Tracey Maroney, director of the Bio Alliance Council, a partnership between Michigan Works! and Prima Civitas Foundation said: “Michigan has geographic advantages over other states in terms of diverse feedstocks, vast agricultural supply chains and bio research facilities. Michigan has the ability to shape its own future and has significant opportunities to expand its bio-based industry and advance its position in the global bioeconomy market. I want to thank Senator Stabenow for her commitment to growing Michigan’s bio-based economy and creating new jobs.”

Senator Stabenow’s Grow it Here, Make it Here Initiative consists of four parts:
Strengthens the Biopreferred Program, which certifies and labels products so consumers can choose to purchase goods made of agriculture materials, and provides a preference for these products for government purchases. Her initiative also calls for greater accountability in the initiative, including auditing and compliance activities to ensure the integrity of the certified label. USDA’s Biopreferred Program offers more than 8,900 bio-based products, including 540 products made by 90 Michigan companies.

Spurs the commercialization of new agricultural innovations by streamlining and focusing resources to help new bio-based projects move from the development to the commercialization phase, also known as the “valley of death” since far too many good ideas do not make it out of this phase. Her initiative focuses the USDA’s Biomass Research and Development Initiative on the commercialization of bio-based products—bridging this gap to help accelerate the bio-based industry.

Increases access to capital for bio-based manufacturers by expanding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Biorefinery Loan Guarantee Program, so bio-based manufacturers have access to loans to help finance new operations or expand existing ones.

Creates a new tax cut for Michigan companies that invest in new facilities or purchase equipment to manufacture bio-based products. Specifically, her initiative will allow companies to qualify for up to a 30% tax credit to help finance investments in new, expanded, or re-equipped bio-based manufacturing, creating new jobs. Only companies that manufacture these products in America will be eligible for this incentive.

Dedicated in 2010, the Innovation Center is a 9,000 square foot facility divided into public and private space, each supporting scientific and technologically-based “start-up” companies that need state-of-the-art research laboratories. Kettering University is a partner with Swedish Biogas International, which built a waste-to-energy biogas plant at the City of Flint’s wastewater treatment facility. Senator Stabenow attended the groundbreaking for this facility, which converts food waste and other waste into electricity.

Stabenow with shirtStabenow recently convened a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing to examine the job-creation potential of bio-based manufacturing in Michigan and across the country.  From car parts to cleaning products, soaps, insulation, plastics, foam goods, and fabrics, bio-based products are finding their way into a wide variety of sectors in our economy.  Now Stabenow’s Grow it Here, Make it Here initiatives would help this emerging industry expand and grow throughout the state, and the country.

Michigan innovators and entrepreneurs are processing Michigan-grown crops such as wheat, sugar, corn and soy for use in advanced manufactured goods across the state.  Bio-based manufacturing is a key sector of Michigan’s agriculture industry.  Agriculture is Michigan’s second largest industry, supporting one out of every four Michigan jobs.

Using American-grown bio-based products displaces foreign petroleum, reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.  This redirects investment into domestic operations rather than sending wealth abroad (often to nations hostile to America’s interests) and strengthens American manufacturing and agriculture. Currently, bio-based products represent 4% of the market for the plastic and chemical industries, replacing petroleum based products. Recent U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis puts the potential market share of bio-based plastic and chemical products in excess of 20% by 2025 with adequate federal policy support. Studies show that if that 20 percent threshold is realized, it would create more than 100,000 American jobs.  Other forms of bio-based manufacturing would create even more.

Written by U.S. Senator Stabenow and Kettering University sources
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