Deal would bring more than 100 biofuel jobs

Published 1:39 am Monday, July 25, 2016

Beaufort County may have more than 100 new jobs in alternative energy coming soon.

Al Barber, founder of Barber Energy LTD, recently offered the county $2.2 million for the entire Chocowinity Industrial Park. Barber Energy LTD produces alternative fuels and has offices in Columbus, Ohio, Santa Barbara, California, Carson City, Nevada, Dallas, Texas, Tucson, Arizona and Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Barber is looking at a $220 million investment and bringing more than 100 jobs to Beaufort County, and will offer $110,000 in good faith money, according to Brian Alligood, Beaufort County manager.

The company will produce biofuel made from algae, and if the deal goes through, will be using water from a nearby Chocowinity pump station in the process, Alligood said.

“Believe it or not, he needs greywater and there is a greywater pump station on the property,” Alligood said. “He’ll be using the greywater to grow the algae.”

Greywater is water from bathroom sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines.

Beaufort County Commissioner Robert Belcher said, initially, the deal seemed too good to be true.

“I’m a lot more optimistic than when I first heard it. The real estate agent came back with an offer. It’s more positive than I dreamed it would be. But you just don’t know until you get that check,” Belcher said.

Belcher said the county is waiting on the earnest money, then the potential buyer will have a period of time for due diligence. Alligood has been working on a deal with North Carolina Department of Commerce to invest $7,000 per job for 100 jobs created to pay for construction of a rail spur to the property, Belcher said.

Belcher said one of the problems Beaufort County has had with attracting industry is the level of skill required to do those jobs.

“We have a work force, but we don’t have a work force that’s highly skilled,” he said.

Belcher said, from what he understood, the majority of jobs created at the potential biofuel plant would be lower-skilled.

“I’ve just got my fingers crossed. I feel like if he actually goes in there and builds it, it will be $110 million facility,” Belcher said. “I have really got my fingers crossed on this one.”