It's positive news on several fronts that the RenewaFUEL plant at K.I. Sawyer is preparing to begin production soon.
The plant, located in formerly empty buildings in the Telkite Technology Park at the former U.S. Air Force base, will soon be turning out biofuel cubes that will be burned to produce energy and heat.
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc., parent company of RenewaFUEL, invested about $19 million in the plant, which shows a strong commitment by Cliffs to the anticipated viability of the operation.
There will be about 25 jobs created because of the plant, which is certainly positive to see in an era of high unemployment.
In addition, there will be several spin-off jobs because of the plant, including collection and transportation of the raw materials that will be fed into the production process.
Those raw materials will also help some local businesses, including logging, sawmill operations and farming. These operations will benefit by providing the biomass - including wood and grasses - that otherwise may have simply gone to waste but will be processed into the biofuel cubes.
Then there's the reduced dependency on coal to fuel power plants, which RenewaFUEL officials cite as one of the more positive aspects of the project. By burning less coal in area power plants, there will be less pollutants being spewed into the air.
Bill Brake, RenewaFUEL LLC board chairman, said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday that the conversion of power plants from coal to biofuel cubes won't happen overnight, but the RenewaFUEL plant is certainly a step in the right direction.
Besides Cliffs using the cubes in its Michigan Operations facilities, area utilities - including the Marquette Board of Light and Power - and other commercial customers are expected to burn the cubes in their plants.
By producing and burning biomass fuel in its operations, Cliffs also reduces its dependency on outside power sources - another way for the large local employer to reduce operational costs and help ensure many more years of a presence on the Marquette Iron Range.