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Kenyan entrepreneur in plan to build a biodiesel plant in York,PA

York biodiesel plant moves a step closer with RDA vote. Project would create jobs and tax revenue for the city, proponents say

James Munene, left, and Britta Schwab want to build a biodiesel production facility in York.

James Munene, left, and Britta Schwab want to build a biodiesel production facility in York.

York’s Redevelopment Authority voted Wednesday to negotiate a development agreement with two entrepreneurs who seek to turn a long-vacant, RDA-owned industrial building on South Pine Street into a facility for making biodiesel fuel.

If Britta Schwab and James Munene can satisfy the agency’s requirements, they’ll get to buy the building at 630 S. Pine St. from the RDA for $1,000. The building was once used by Simon Camera for processing photo film. Schwab and Munene also would get to lease a parking lot at 600 S. Pine St. from the RDA for a nominal amount.

But first, Schwab and Munene will have to satisfy the RDA that they have financing lined up for the project, including $114,000 they told the authority it will take to renovate the 10,000-square-foot building. They also would have to meet other conditions spelled out in the yet-to-be negotiated development agreement, including submitting plans detailing the renovations they plan for the building, said Shilvosky Buffaloe, the city’s deputy director of economic development.

York Habitat for Humanity also had expressed interest in the building but did not make a presentation to the RDA on Wednesday.

James Munene stands with the bulk tanks he uses to collect used restaurant oil for processing into biofuel.

James Munene stands with the bulk tanks he uses to collect used restaurant oil for processing into biofuel.

Schwab and Munene, in their presentation to the authority on Wednesday, said they would create five to 10 new jobs for workers to produce biofuel from used restaurant cooking oil and grease. They plan to provide jobs to ex-offenders, among others, at a time when many in York struggle to find work.

Schwab is a human resources coordinator with Bell Socialization Services in York. She also has organized several job fairs in the city. The most recent, at Santander Stadium in October, attracted almost 1,000 people looking for work. The project also would return the building to the tax rolls, she said.

“We’re very excited to have the opportunity to do business in York City,” Schwab said Wednesday.

The facility would have the capacity to produce 5,000 gallons of fuel a day by fall 2015, Schwab said. She hopes to begin production in June.

Two universities — one in China and one in Pennsylvania — would be part of the project. Doctoral students from Beihang University in Beijing, China, would work at the facility to learn the process for making biofuel, as would engineering students from Elizabethtown College in Lancaster, Schwab said.

David Cross, the RDA’s chairman, was the sole board member to vote against the development agreement. The $1,000 Schwab and Munene offered for the building is too little in light of their projected revenue, he said.

Schwab said that once production ramps up, she and Munene expect annual revenue of between $100,000 to $120,000 from fuel sales plus another $21,000 a year from leasing space in the building to other tenants.

YDR

 

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