Enviva ‘footprint’ widens

Published 10:42 am Thursday, May 23, 2013

Taking part in Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony to formally open Enviva Pellets Northampton were, from left, Robert Carter, John Keppler, Gov. Pat McCrory, Dr. John R. Jones, and Rep. Michael Wray. Staff Photo by Amanda VanDerBroek

Taking part in Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony to formally open Enviva Pellets Northampton were, from left, Robert Carter, John Keppler, Gov. Pat McCrory, Dr. John R. Jones, and Rep. Michael Wray. Staff Photo by Amanda VanDerBroek

GASTON – Enviva Pellets Northampton is officially in production.

On Monday, county and state officials joined North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and Enviva Chairman and CEO John Keppler for a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the plant.

Enviva Pellets Northampton has the ability of manufacturing 500,000 tons of wood pellets annually. Those pellets are substituted for coal for energy generation mostly in European markets. The pellets significantly reduce the carbon footprint and improve the environmental profile for those customers.

The plant will see approximately one million metric tons of green wood per year which will be made into pellets and transported by truck to Enviva’s deep water port in Chesapeake, Va.

During his time before the crowd, Gov. McCrory spoke about utilizing natural resources to help grow the economy as well as Enviva’s dedication to the state.

“In the past several years Enviva has been expanding the North Carolina footprint,” he said. “The company has already invested more than $110 million in our state, they’ve employed more than 150 people and these are good paying jobs also—they are above the county average. This company also supports many other supply chain companies.”

McCrory said his administration has been focusing on three basic areas during his first four months in office: the economy, education and government efficiency.

“And we think if we can deal with the economy, government efficiency and education we can keep rebuilding North Carolina’s economy,” he said. “We can continue making this a place to live, work and raise a family.”

McCrory said Enviva Pellets Northampton is a part of this process and he congratulated local leaders for putting in the hard work to make it happen.

He said one of his major goals is to work on the state’s exports in order to grow industry.

McCrory said there is a major effort in working with regional ports including those in Virginia. He added working with other states was vital to regional economics.

“Part of our infrastructure plan is to improve the infrastructure here to leading other metro areas, including the Norfolk area,” he said.

McCrory said Enviva is a good illustration of how natural resources can help job creation and improve the economy.

“This is a great example of how we can use natural resources to grow business and every region of this state has its own unique niche and so does this great county and great region,” he said. “And if we continue to take advantage of and unleash these great resources we’ll continue to help the existing businesses grow.”

McCrory presented Keppler with a China plate for appreciation.

“Remember to continue to grow in North Carolina,” he said to Keppler.

Keppler reciprocated the gesture with a gift of his own.

“Almost 44 months ago we made the decision to move here to Northampton County, 22 months later you see this plant in full operation,” said Keppler. “That is a remarkable testament to all the folks in this room.”

Keppler said that even though Enviva’s product is sold internationally it is a local business as it employs local citizens, buys local wood and has invested in the community.

He added the plant has the ability to produce 500,000 tons a year, enough to power 180,000 homes. The product manufactured over next seven years has already been sold to customers.

“The product we manufacture substitutes coal. For many years major utilities have burned coal; they’re now burning things that we produce right here to improve the environmental profile of their energy generation,” he said. “We’re doing that right on the basis of the natural resources here in the mid-Atlantic.”

Northampton Commission Chair Robert Carter presented the flag of Northampton County to Keppler and asked him to fly it over the facility along with the state and American flags.

He also acknowledged Gov. McCrory as well as the Department of Commerce and Department of Transportation who were “allies” to the county.

“Mr. Keppler, thank you again for the confidence you placed in us,” he said. “We welcome you and Enviva as a great corporate citizen of this county.”

Dr. John R. Jones, Chair of the Northampton County Economic Development Commission, welcomed guests to the ceremony.

As a Seaboard native who moved away from the area but returned after retirement, Jones said he noticed things had changed in his home county, including greater economic opportunity.

“In the past 20 years industrial employment nationwide has significantly declined, in some regions as much as 60 percent,” he said. “In that same 20 years investment employment here in Northampton County—manufacturing, processing, distribution—investment employment has more than tripled.”

Jones added that was a testament to the county leaders as well as the team of individuals behind improving the county’s economy.

In addition to Enviva Pellets Northampton, the company also has a plant in Ahoskie and one currently under construction in Southampton County, Va.