The dinner was held in a building owned by the Gilmer Industrial Foundation at the Gilmer Airport, just north of the Texas Forest Service building there.
The company, Texasta, will grow algae for “nutraceuticals,” ingredients for vitamin products and food supplements.
The executive staff of Texasta’s parent company, Independence Bio Products, was present and thanked the community for its reception for what will be a subsidiary of the Dublin, Ohio-based parent company.
Ron Erd, CEO, said that, specifically, the Gilmer plant will produce algae which its customer will use as a source for Astaxanthin.
This red-colored substance is an extremely potent antioxidant, he said, 500 times as strong as Vitamin E, and has many other health benefits as well.
The substance is what gives free salmon its naturally pink color (lacking in farm-grown salmon, in which the flesh is gray—prompting some growers or marketers to artificially color the farm-grown fish).
Erd said that worldwide demand for Astaxanthin is increasing, and there should continue to be a good market for it.
He said that their main competitors are based in Israel and Hawaii, with the Japanese Fuji company also developing applications for the algae-based nutrient.
The Hawaiian firm has its own nutraceutical production and marketing structure, so is not a direct competitor for what will be the Gilmer plant’s product.
At Gilmer, the company plans to produce the “slow-growing” algae (which doubles its weight about every two days, as opposed to other “fast-growing” algae, which can double in as little as one day or less). The algae ingests carbon dioxide, and binds the carbon and frees the oxygen.
The product will be dried, powderized, shrink-wrapped in bags of about 20 pounds each, encased in foil to protect it from light, and shipped to the customer for final processing into nutraceuticals.
The plant’s equipment is expected to be very energy efficient.
Brad Lambert, Chief Financial Officer for the parent company, said that the average annual compensation, with benefits, is expected to be about $50,000 a year.
Most employees will need a high-school education and a farm or manufacturing background.
Lambert said that they will probably start filling vacancies in January, “hopefully with referrals from people in this room (at the dinner reception).”
He said that there is “plenty of good talent” in the Gilmer area.
The company expects to be fully operational and shipping product by mid-year.
They are leasing the building and the grounds immediately around it. The building has been vacant for several years.
The parent company has purchased several acres to the north of the building, on which it planst to construct up to 16 30-foot round tanks and up to eight quarter-acre oval tanks to grow the algae.
The relatively mild climate (as far as freezing temperatures) is a plus for the site here, said Chris Davies, director of operations. He said that the area is known for few days in a row below 20 degrees F.
Megan Inman has a background in biological science and will be in an administrative post in Gilmer. Davies and Ms. Inman are moving from Tatum, where the parent company has had a “pilot program,” with them as the staff, for the past year, Erd said.
Erd said that a type of algae native to Texas is among the best for yielding the Astaxanthin, and Texas-type algae (which originated in the Lone Star State) is being grown by their chief competitors.
The company choosing Gilmer is a result of work by the Gilmer Industrial Foundation, and First National Bank CEO and President Kelly Stretcher (who is the foundation’s president) since April.
Erd praised the work of Stretcher and Heather Baugh, his administrative assistant at the bank.
Mrs. Baugh had commented that she had talked on the phone so much over the months with Lambert that they had become friends.
Erd said they were also impressed that volunteers had come out Wednesday to clean up the building in preparation for the welcoming reception.
Erd said that the plant will use Gilmer city water in its operations, and praised the helpfulness of city employees in working out the water and sewer needs of the facility, which are critical to its operation.
Stretcher also thanked the group and praised the work of the foundation and all those who helped Wednesday. He said that Bill Patterson, a retired real estate broker and contractor and long-time member of the Gilmer Industrial Foundation, had brought a long-handled paint scraper from his home and used it to help clean the factory-room floor.
Patterson later spoke and reminded the audience that Ohio is the “Buckeye State,” and that the Buckeye is the mascot of Ohio State University.
Patterson then informed the executives that they had another Buckeye team to cheer for, the Gilmer Buckeyes, and presented them with a variety of Buckeye-logo caps.
Independence Bio Products has many different operations in algae application, including some patented ones. They have worked in the “biofuels” area, including working with the U.S. Air Force in an attempt to create an algae-based jet fuel, Erd said.
Independence Bio Products’ web site states:
“Independence Bio-Products has developed a low-cost system to produce algae oil and algae protein, while using power plant flue gas as a source of carbon dioxide. The company captures industrial carbon dioxide, produces algae oil for conversion to biofuels and bioproducts, and high-protein algae solids for fish, pig and chicken feed.
“By building its proprietary technology based on 18 years of United States Department of Energy research, the company has been able to significantly lower the costs to make its products competitive.
“The exhaust gas from the power plant contains about 10 percent CO2, which is fed to the algae ponds. The algae consume the CO2, affix the carbon and release oxygen via photosynthesis. The algae double approximately once per day, while consuming large quantities of CO2; approximately 1.8 times their weight.
“IBP harvests the algae and separates it into algae oil and Algamaxx™ animal feed.”