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Three requests first to be weighed for new 'large project' state funds

Oct 4, 2016 By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE (AP) -- Top Wyoming elected officials are set to vote this week on whether the state should lend $33.5 million to private companies to fund expansion of three major economic development projects.

The projects heading before the State Loan and Investment Board on Thursday in Cheyenne are a fuel additive plant in Cheyenne, an activated carbon plant in Gillette and the expansion of a pharmaceutical plant in Cody.

The board includes Gov. Matt Mead and the other four statewide elected officials.

Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, sponsored legislation two years ago that created the state's Large Project Economic Development Fund. The fund has $25 million available for projects and funding the three projects would require taking the additional money from the state's Challenge Loan Fund.

"Economic diversification, away from our dependency on minerals, is I think hugely significant for the state of Wyoming," Coe said Monday. "We've all seen the boom and bust."

The three companies had applied for a total of over $83 million in loans from the state program. Coe said that if he's re-elected to the Wyoming Senate this fall, he intends to push in next year's legislative session to increase funding.

Staff at the Wyoming Business Council have ranked the three projects according to their projected contribution to increasing the assessed valuation of the property where each project is located over the next three years. Interest rates would be set slightly higher than rates on federal treasury notes.

The Business Council recommends the following approvals:

- A $9.8-million loan to Cody Laboratories, a subsidiary of Lannett Company, Inc., of Philadelphia. Cody Laboratories, which manufactures pharmaceuticals including painkillers, had requested a $33.7-million loan from the state to expand operations. An attempt to reach a company official for comment on Monday was not immediately successful.

- A $17.4-million loan to Standard Alcohol, which has corporate offices in Denver. The company intends to build a fuel additive production facility near Cheyenne. The company had requested a $25-million loan. An attempt to reach a company official was not immediately successful Monday.

- A $6.5-million loan to Atlas Carbon, a Wyoming company, which uses coal to make activated carbon for use in filtering emissions from coal-fired power plants. The company had requested $25 million to expand operations.

Jim Ford, vice president of operations with Atlas Carbon in Gillette, said Monday he could not address questions about the loan before the board meeting.

Ford said Atlas Carbon currently is operating under a construction permit from the Wyoming Division of Environmental Quality and expects to transition to an operating permit within 90 days. He said the company is producing activated carbon and offering it to other companies to evaluate.

"While our volumes are not huge, we're the only one's doing anything as far as a value-added production with Powder River Basin coal. It's the only coal that's not being used just for thermal fuel," Ford said.

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