MATHEWS, La. — Today, Gov. Bobby Jindal and Managing Director Otavio Pontes of Virdia Inc. announced the company will make a $60 million capital investment to build Lafourche Parish biochemical processing facilities that will convert sugar cane bagasse into high-value industrial sugars and biofuels. The processing plants will be installed beside the Raceland Raw Sugar Corp. mill in Raceland, Louisiana, where Virdia has secured an agreement to use 80,000 tons per year of the mill’s bagasse, or sugar cane waste.
The project will create 81 new direct jobs, averaging $55,000 a year, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development also estimates the project will result in 469 new indirect jobs, for a total of 550 new jobs in the Bayou Region and surrounding areas. In addition, an estimated 120 construction jobs will be generated by the project, which represents the first major co-location of an industrial processing facility with a Louisiana sugar mill.
Gov. Jindal said, “Virdia represents the success that Louisiana’s agriculture industry is experiencing as our economy continues to grow. Virdia is creating quality new jobs by developing new methods for making sugar cane products that will continue to help support our farmers. We’re proud that Virdia recognized the tremendous value of Louisiana’s sugar cane resources and that the company will be advancing important new manufacturing methods for its products right here in our state. This project will be a boon for our farmers and refiners in the sugar industry, and it also will create great jobs for our families in Louisiana – where today we have more people working than ever before.”
Virdia Inc., a U.S.-based company, is fully owned and was recently acquired by Stora Enso Oyj, a $14 billion-per-year forestry products company headquartered in Finland, with operations worldwide. The acquisition supports the vision of Stora Enso’s Biomaterials Division in becoming a significant player in biochemicals and biomaterials. The technology enables more efficient extraction of biomass, allowing the possibility to develop and commercialize cost-effective renewable solutions to address well-identified, market-driven needs. The company will begin hiring in 2015, with expected completion of the $60 million project in Raceland by the end of 2016.
“We chose Louisiana due to the accessibility of a nonfood-competing, sustainable raw material – sugar cane bagasse – which will enable us to validate the technology and develop further the applications and possibilities offered by this technology,” Pontes said. “In addition, the support that Raceland Raw Sugar and the Louisiana Economic Development agency is giving in making available a site that offers necessary other resources and infrastructure was also a significant factor. This investment in Louisiana is the logical next step for the industrial validation of the newly acquired extraction and separation technology.”
LED began discussing a potential project in Louisiana with the company in August 2012. To secure the project, the State of Louisiana offered Virdia a competitive incentive package that includes a performance-based, $1 million Economic Development Award Program grant to offset infrastructure costs. Virdia will receive the comprehensive solutions of LED FastStart®, recently ranked by Business Facilities magazine as the No. 1 state workforce development program for the fifth consecutive year. The company also is expected to utilize the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program.
“We are pleased to welcome Virdia Inc. to Lafourche Parish,” Lafourche Parish President Charlotte Randolph said. “How exciting that this company with global investment has chosen Lafourche Parish as the site to manufacture their products. The familiar sight of the ‘Raceland Mountains’ will disappear because these innovative people have determined that sugar cane waste can be transformed into useful products in the biochemical industry.”
“Years from now, we will look back upon our renewable fuels movement, just as we did in the last century with the industrial revolution,” said President and CEO Vic Lafont of the South Louisiana Economic Council. “With all our natural resources, the Bayou Region is well-positioned to be at the center of this revolution."
Founded in 2007, Virdia Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Stora Enso, a Helsinki-based global leader in the pulp and paper, biomaterials, wood products and packaging industries. Virdia is developing extraction technologies for the conversion of cellulosic biomass to highly refined fermentable sugars, biochemicals and high-quality lignin. The company is led by a seasoned management team with decades of industrial-scale manufacturing experience in industrial biotech, chemicals and sugar production. For more information, visit Virdia.com.
About Stora Enso
Stora Enso is the global rethinker of the paper, biomaterials, wood products and packaging industry. The company rethinks the old and expands the new to offer customers innovative solutions based on renewable materials. Stora Enso employs some 29,000 people worldwide, with 2013 sales of €10.6 billion. Stora Enso shares are listed on the Nasdaq OMX Helsinki (STEAV, STERV) and Stockholm (STEA, STER). In addition, the shares are traded in the U.S. as American depository receipts (SEOAY) in the International OTCQX over-the-counter market. For more information, visit storaenso.com.