The City of Newton, Ill., Jasper County, and St. Joseph Renewable Fuels, LLC announced plans to build a $400 million renewable diesel plant in Southern Illinois that envisions utilizing innovative technologies and a new healthcare protocol to test and certify a COVID-19 free workforce. The 40-acre site in Newton, Ill., is within a federally designated Opportunity Zone, and is believed to be one of the largest projects proposed under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that was designed to revive economically distressed communities in the United States.
Plans for the proposed facility include showcasing proactive steps a small city with a population of 3,000 can take to solve a complex health crisis through a new app and testing initiative called ‘HealthCheckIn.’ The testing concept being introduced will help bring a critical facility into operation. This innovative approach ultimately could be scalable to a larger impact at county, state, and national levels, both domestically and worldwide. HealthCheckIn can help solve a larger need for mitigation solutions that will allow the country to re-open from the COVID-19 lockdown that affects virtually an entire workforce.
“We plan to breathe new life into Newton by adding a major employer, creating good paying jobs and advancing green efforts, while delivering a healthy local workforce and community,” said Newton Mayor Mark Bolander. “This will be accomplished through the introduction of leading-edge solutions and the formation of new partnerships that can help us fight the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Bolander notes he quickly recognized the benefits of the ideas being suggested by the St. Joseph Renewable Fuels team. “We welcome a project of this magnitude because it is a game changer for Newton as an Opportunity Zone,” said Bolander. “It will bring jobs closer to where people live, and I’m confident we’re doing something positive to promote economic expansion and protect the health of our community. If we do this right, it will be easy to be supportive and feel good about it.” Opportunity Zones are areas identified by the federal government as distressed and in need of transformation via economic development, investment and revitalization. Congress approved the legislation as part of the tax-reform bill in 2017. Opportunity Zone investments are primarily a way for investors to defer capital gains taxes for a period of time.
Jasper County Board Chairman Ron Heltsley stated, “This is a tremendous project and the county is excited to have it in our community.”
The team involved in the project includes New York-based specialty finance firm, Lance Capital and its New Zealand joint venture partner, Lance-Kamaka Capital Ltd, which serves as a lender on the St. Joseph Renewable Fuels plant and is the sponsor of the HealthCheckIn protocol concept. Other partners include Cyberus Labs, which delivers the technology component of the healthcare platform, and a joint-venture between McDermott and Chevron Oil, which will be involved in the core technology of the renewable fuels produced.
Mayor Bolander said, “Newton and the Jasper County Economic Development team (JEDI) envision that as the state and nation focuses on re-opening, this innovative solution conceived in Newton and Jasper County can serve as a catalyst that ignites a movement to other cities, states and even across the globe.”
A critical component of the proposed plant in Newton is the new HealthCheckIn initiative, which is expected to help deliver long-term disease management and mitigation solutions for COVID-19 and other potential future health threats. The secure, in-home testing concept app, developed in partnership with Cyberus Labs, delivers a viable solution to the COVID-19 pandemic, and can be used to re-open critical buildings and workplaces throughout the United States. In a similar fashion, Lance Capital is also working to apply the HealthCheckIn protocol to the re-opening of major buildings in New York City and other hard hit metropolitan areas, while Lance-Kamaka Capital is developing concepts to re-open New Zealand to tourism and international commerce.
The environmental benefits of the St. Joseph Renewable Fuels facility are supportive of efforts to promote renewable fuels, protect the environment and reduce CO2. Additionally, the plant will bring new sources of renewable fuels to metropolitan, rural and underserved communities. The facility will consume waste fats and greases from a region spanning 1,000 miles around Newton, which would otherwise be landfilled or emptied into sewer drains. The plant will convert the waste into 90 million gallons of diesel and naphtha fuel annually, as well as seven million gallons of technical grade glycerin.
“The fuel production technologies licensed to us and being deployed at the proposed facility in Newton promote sustainable practices,” said Geoffrey Hirson, CEO of St. Joseph Renewable Fuels, LLC. “The benefits realized transfer to both the local and global environment by producing renewable, reduced carbon fuels using carbon neutral or net-carbon negative production methods.”
Richard Podos, CEO of Lance Capital, said, “The St. Joe renewable diesel plant will drive economic growth in the city and county through $400 million of hard and soft construction costs, the revival of a shuttered site, and the production of ASTM-D975 renewable diesel. We will be advancing the project via tax incentives being offered by the city, and we also will be seeking state and federal support,” he added. Podos notes 100 permanent jobs will be created in the Newton community, plus 200 construction jobs for the duration of the two-year construction, as well as 300 trucking jobs for the State of Illinois once the plant is commissioned and operating.
City and county officials are working to offer the HealthCheckIn system to other community stakeholders, including the county power plant, the Jasper County school district, which remains on the front lines providing meals to the county despite being closed due to statewide COVID-19 orders, local police, fire and emergency responders, and front-line healthcare workers, as well as major essential retailers who have remained open for business throughout the emergency.
“This HealthCheckIn system will allow the people in our community to get tested and give them confidence they are not going to infect others, while providing us the workforce needed to stimulate economic growth,” said Amber Volk, Jasper County’s Economic Development Coordinator. “The addition of a new major employer in our Opportunity Zone will fuel that expansion with quality jobs and deliver benefits to other community stakeholders. If we can encourage a critical mass of testing through the HealthCheckIn program, it could help create a firewall for our community to protect against future outbreaks.”
The core of the individual HealthCheckIn solution is based upon a new generation of cyber-secure, password-free data exchange, which allows for secure daily infection testing and app-level reporting with an affordable and logistically sound approach. The HealthCheckIn protocol will use FDA-approved rapid response in-home test devices, such as those from Abbott Laboratories and Quidel Corporation, for daily tests for all employees that take about 15 minutes to generate results. Each testing device will be provided as part of the St. Joseph Renewable Fuels facility development plan, with tests costing $15-25.
The results are secure, real-time, and produce a “Green” rating for non-infectious individuals and a “Red” rating for non-tested, testing-overdue, or infectious individuals. User permissions are required, making the entire system HIPAA and GDPR compliant, as well as meeting OSHA requirements for employee safety in the workplace. The user cannot manipulate the test results and the test evidence comes from an irrefutable third-party HIPAA compliant database. The HealthCheckIn system would be used to allow the individual tested access to places of work, schools, restaurants, airports, sports facilities, and other places of business.
Mayor Bolander concludes, “St. Joseph Renewable Fuels, HealthCheckIn, the City of Newton, the County of Jasper, JEDI and Jasper Unit 1 are in agreement that a project of this size will be a ‘game changer’ for the community and this region. We hope to have more press releases with updates coming soon.”