Linden industry needs land

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 6, 2005

Bamboo could soon be a hot commodity in Linden. On May 12, the Linden Industrial Board will host a meeting to tell local farmers how.

At the meeting farmers within a 30 mile radius will be given the opportunity to gain further information about a proposed $530 million production facility in the area that would produce pulp and possibly electricity from bamboo crops. The plant would also be expected to employ anywhere from 350 to 400 people.

According to Kevin Dixon, Chairman of the Linden Industrial Board, the plant is “99 percent certain” provided landowners could commit to providing 15,000 to 30,00 acres of land to lead to production of Arundo donax.

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The meeting will take place on May 12 at 2 p.m. at Linden Baptist Church for the purpose of informing farmers of the process, benefits of forming a cooperative and details of model contracts between growers and the industrial developer, Global Cellulose Systems.

The farmer’s profits from growing bamboo would likely exceed many current land uses. In outright leases to the firm, for example, a ballpark figure of $400 per acre has been discussed.

Dixon felt local farmers would have many questions and planned to have specialists on hand to answer them. Dr. David Wilson or Dr. Dave Bransby from Auburn University, Dr. Rod Tawil and Dr. John E. Woods of West Wind Technology Inc. and representatives of the Black Belt Economic Development Effort and possibly leaders from USDA and other financial institutions will be on hand to field questions.

West Wind will also explain how farmers might be compensated during the first two years while the first crop matures.

The informative meeting will set up a larger meeting on May 19 in the Linden Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. At this meeting, 300 business and political leaders have been invited and are expected to attend.

Guest presentations from GCS’s Lain MacAulay and Ron Slucky (COO) from London, Tim Parker, Chairman of the Alabama State Port Authority Board and Dr. John and Susan Woods along with Dr. Rod Tawill of WWT, Terah Huckabee, V.P. of Terminal Services at Parking Towing Company who manages Parker’s Terminal and Waterways Material Divisions.

One of the major questions to be answered will be “what if landowners are not forthcoming with the necessary acreage for growing bamboo?”

GSC has indicated its goal is to establish six plants in the Southeastern United States for producing pulp for a growing European demand. If successful Linden would be the first such plant in the United States.

Industrial Board consultant Pat Dixon felt because of the substantial size of the capital investment and long-term nature of the growing biomass, both landowners and developers will need to rely on long term contracts to protect their interests and landowners must be willing to dedicate the land to grow the biomass crop.

Ten-year contracts are anticipated with provisions for clearing the land at the end of that period if the landowner so chooses.