$60 million grant sought to create Lima megacenter

BYLINE: Tim Rausch | trausch@limanews.com
DATE: December 5, 2006

LIMA — In addition to making electricity, a power plant under construction in Lima could also turn the city into a hub for nanotechnology and synthetic fuel production. The gas from Global Energy could also be pumped into the ground to revive the Lima legacy of oil production.

"A successful launch of all three technical platforms will generate enormous economic activity," said Dwight Lockwood, vice president of regulatory affairs for Global Energy. "We conservatively estimate as much as $4 billion of impact to Ohio through this grant."

The grant is a $60 million request to the Ohio Department of Development’s Third Frontier Wright Mega-centers of Innovation. The group of collaborators on the project, including Global Energy and the city of Lima, expect to hear in mid-December whether the Lima project was approved.

The Lima Synthesis Gas Product Commercialization Center would be set up on 14 acres of ground on South Main Street across from Global Energy’s power plant. Lima applied to the state’s Job Ready Site program to get $5 million to get the ground ready for the center. Word on that grant is expected this month before the Taft administration ends.

The location of the collaborators on the Lima megacenter make it a statewide project, said Lima Mayor David Berger.

The center could be operating in three years, Berger said. It will be "game changing" for Ohio, Berger said.

Collaborators include nanotechnology firms in Cedarville, Miamisburg, and Akron, the Ohio Polymer Strategic Council, Rhodes State College, Ohio State University, the University of Dayton Research Institute, and the Edison Materials Technology Center in Dayton. American Trim Inc., of Lima, and the Center for Multifunctional Polymer Nanomaterials and Devices, of Columbus, are also involved.

"This is a project of national importance to us," said Dilip Ballal, a director at the University of Dayton Research Institute.

The work that will be completed at the Lima megacenter will contribute to energy security, the reduction of reliance on foreign oil.

Some of the synthetic gas that will be created from Global Energy’s coal gasification process will be used for synthetic jet fuel and diesel. There will also be some research into using the gas as a way to extract the remaining oil from the Trenton Oil Field that lies under Lima.

David Brown, dean of technology at Rhodes State College, said the megacenter will house an administrative office and then some research bays for the various off-shoots. The nanotechnology area will be a production facility for Applied Sciences, Inc., which will use the synthetic gas to manufacture high volumes of carbon nanofibers, Brown said.

Ten years from now, the center could be responsible for 3,000 industry jobs and 300 research jobs statewide, Brown said. A large portion of the jobs would be in the Lima area to be near the center.

"The economic possibilities are staggering to consider," said Steven Vick, who is chief technology officer for Global Energy. Vick will become the megacenter’s director if the project is funded.

The estimated $4 billion in economic impact to the state during a 10-year span take into account wages, capital investment and manufacturing revenue.

The Lima project is in competition with seven other projects seeking $60 million. The projects were reviewed by members of the National Academy of Science in October. There is enough money in the first round of this Third Frontier program to award two grants, said Merle Madrid, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Development.

To get the $60 million, the project needed a $120 million match for the grant. The collaborators are leveraging Global Energy’s investment into the power plant to meet that requirement.

"The Lima megacenter proposal is an ambitious vision of how we can leverage the state-of-the-art investment being made by Global Energy into a set of business activities that could literally transform Ohio’s manufacturing base," Berger said.

According to the Third Frontier application, the collaborators will contribute $14 million in cash toward the project and $198 million in in-kind costs to go along with the $60 million grant.

"If the megacenter doesn’t happen, we’ll go searching for a funding source to make it happen," Brown said.

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