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Alberta Biobord Corp. recently hosted a virtual open house from Stettler

The company plans to develop a fuel pellet and medium density fibre board (MDF) plant near the community

A virtual open house was recently hosted by Alberta Biobord Corporation to further provide details about plans to develop a fuel pellet and medium density fibre board (MDF) plant near Stettler.

According to a release, “The company has signed a land purchase agreement on a full quarter-section situated in Stettler County that has excellent highway and railway access and is sufficient in size and layout to meet all development requirements.”

“Our vision statement is quite simple – ‘Alberta Biobord Corporation recognizes straw residues as a valuable resource that is currently under-utilized in Canada,” said George Clark, president and CEO of Alberta Biobord.

“And basically, what we recognize, is that straw truly is Alberta’s carbon advantage,” he continued.

“I also want to point out that although this is our first open house-type of engagement, we have all been engaging with local residents and councils, administrators and potential business partners for several months to bring our potential project plans forward.”

He also mentioned that one of his early meetings in town was with some staff from the Stettler Learning Centre.

“We went in there specifically to let them know that we are looking forward to working with them in helping to develop additional skillsets from under-employed area residents,” he explained.

”We will be putting out that information and working with them to ensure that any of their clients who are looking for skill upgrading will basically have a list of the employment opportunities as they are coming up well in advance. They can then position themselves to be good candidates for employment with us, whether that be in the construction phase or for permanent employment,” he explained.

Officials say interactions overall have been very positive as well, including with all levels of government.

“There has been this constant stream of information as we try to keep everybody engaged in the process, and in all aspects of what we are looking to complete. It’s all about ensuring that everybody in Stettler and area is comfortable with what we are up to, and are hopefully interacting very positively.”

Lorne Murfitt, director and VP of community outreach, said it’s exciting to be bringing a project like this to the community.

“We have a highly-skilled workforce all around us – 176,000 people live within an hour of Stettler. It’s a great central spot for straw production in every direction, and we are also lucky to also have great railway and highway access.

“We have highways running north, south, east and west and we’ve chosen to proceed now because the market for fuel pellets continues to grow.”

According to a release, such a pellet mill facility can be designed, built and commissioned on a fast-track schedule, producing first pellets fall of 2021.

Hundreds of jobs are expected to be created directly and indirectly as the entire project takes shape. The County will also benefit from significant tax input, officials say.

“We also believe that these permanent jobs will attract new residents with housing needs, and give a nice boost to the town and county of Stettler and the surrounding area.”

Murfitt said the new site would be right along Hwy. 56 which will take a lot of traffic away from town.

“There will be less than 20 truckloads a day because of our custom trailers with high capacity,” he said. “Plus, we are going to use the access road – Range Road 392 – which will definitely limit any inconvenience for residents and Highway 56 traffic,” he said.

Clark agreed.

“Stettler is also a great area for people to live a good life, and I would like to point out that the dollar amounts shown in phase one, phase two and phase three are only part of the total investment,” he said.

“Having full transport loads is going to help us achieve a reach of straw acquisition that is larger than most would have anticipated,” Clark said.

A Stettler office was also recently opened and Clark said the feedback has been positive.

Earlier this year, Clark had explained how Stettler was proving to be an ideal place for the facility, what with a large base of workers for both construction and operation within a 45-minute radius of the community.

“The last thing I want to end up doing in any rural Alberta community is building a large factory facility which is literally bringing in a large outside workforce and ignoring the opportunities and the potential of local residents to transition into the job offers that we have at hand.”