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Tax incentives driving biofuel project interest. (Sault Ste Marie).

The City of Sault Ste. Marie is not holding its breath when it comes to bringing a biofuel initiative to reality, but they are holding onto the idea with hope of adding another stimulating economic injection to the North.

The initiative is in its infancy stages.

"Right now we are exploring this opportunity to see if it is a viable opportunity for the Algoma area," says Larry Little, president and general manager of Rapid Success Business Growth Inc.

It is a long way from a shovel being put in the ground and developing a biofuel plant.

"Right now we have private players investigating the use of biofuels using products from the forestry and agricultural industry," says Bruce Strapp, president and CEO of the Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corp. "They are just starting their first steps of feasibility and concept"

The idea of a biofuel initiative started with research carried out by Rapid Success's export and development advisor Andrew Marcinkowski. It was found biodiesel is popular in Europe, and German business delegates coming to the North earlier this year, and talking about biodiesel opportunities fostered further interest.

"Even further interest was the recent budget," says Little. "The government is promoting environmentally friendly fuel products and there are tax incentives to look at."

Rapid Success has contacted local farmers in an attempt to gauge interest and accessibility.

"We wanted to see what the farmers grow and if canola can be grown."

Rapid Success is also determining if there is a market capable of handling a biofuel industry.

"I think with the cost of energy now and the Kyoto Protocol it opens up a whole new world of opportunity," says Little.

The obvious economic benefits are job creation in biofuel plants and spinoff jobs in the agricultural sector and support industries, but there are other benefits to a biofuel initiative.

"The fact that it is environmentally friendly will help the North preserve lakes and forests," says Little.

This initiative will have to overcome numerous challenges before it is embedded into the foundation of the Algoma area economy.

"There is always a challenge when you introduce something new," says Little. "People question change, and for this to be viable energy costs have to be at a certain level."

Rapid Success must also convince potential canola farmers there will be a demand for the crops.

"With energy increases and the Kyoto Protocol every indication is there will be a market for this."

Little says there is significant interest from biodiesel firms in Germany, Czechoslovakia and Italy who are willing to share their technology.

"They can make an investment in Northern Ontario and reap the benefits."

The foreign firms are looking to gain a foothold in the North American market and Sault Ste. Marie is in a solid position to provide that foothold.

"We are on the border and that is a key advantage," says Little. "These firms are trying to get access to the largest trading partner-the United States."

Little says the North should work together on the initiative.

"This could work throughout the North and if we work together I think we will achieve more success that way."

To help promote a biodiesel initiative, Little says the government should make the climate right for foreign investment by supplying necessary infrastructure.

"If the government supplies the infrastructure like technology, roads, transportation and tax incentives then the private industry will take it from there."

Biofuels could become a big part of the future economy of the North.

"If the economic climate continues with the Kyoto Protocol then something like this will just eventually evolve," says Little. "It just takes someone to take an opportunity and act on it."

Little says there are resourceful and ambitious entrepreneurs who reside in the North that could make this initiative skyrocket.

"Selling within the city and selling in Europe takes a whole new set of skills, but if you are successful selling here there is no reason you will not be successful selling somewhere else," says Little. "We have the expertise in the North to learn new things and capitalize on it."

Rapid Success has only been researching biofuels and biodiesel for the last two months, but there is no denying it will have an impact in the North if the initiative comes to fruition, says Little.
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Author:Haddow, Scott Hunter
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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