Biofuel, nursery businesses considering Caldwell County operations

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By LPR Staff
Editor/POST-REGISTER

A brief joint meeting of the Caldwell County Commissioners Court and the Lockhart City Council yielded a hopeful outcome for some local agriculture producers as well as for economic development on Tuesday.

The joint meeting, held prior to the City Council’s first budget workshop of the summer, was requested by repres

entatives of Color Star Growers and Bio Hybrid Energy Services, both of whom requested the leaderships’ support in moving toward opening operations in or near Lockhart.

Color Star, one of the nation’s leading producers of bedding plants and hanging baskets for such commercial powerhouses as Wal Mart and Lowe’s, is hoping to expand their operation and build a greenhouse operation near the Lockhart Industrial Park.

Nationwide, Color Star’s six locations are comprised of nearly 175 acres of greenhouse operations employing nearly 10 people per acre for a variety of jobs including not only growers, but mechanics, laborers, and sales teams.

Their plants, grown and tended year-round, are distributed across the southwest.

Lockhart Mayor Ray Sanders suggested Color Star was considering building a 40-acre greenhouse in the Lockhart area, which will enhance the company’s current production, which is outgrowing its operation in Austin. Lockhart’s proximity to State Highway 130 is a part of the area’s appeal, but is not the sole factor.

A portion of Color Star’s business plan includes the use of green energy technology, and recycling and reuse of water from the greenhouses, as well as rainwater harvesting and other “green” business aspects. They are also actively pursuing certification as an organic grower, which will allow them to provide fruits and vegetables to several regional supermarkets.

Should the company decide to build a greenhouse in the area, Sanders expects they will create dozens of jobs immediately, and offer several other benefits to the region, including their partnership with Bio Hybrid Energy Services (BHES).

George King, a partner with BHES, was the leader in organizing the meeting between the businesses and local leadership. His company’s stake in the relocation includes the possible building of a biogas plant, capable of producing up to 5 megawatts of energy.

King said he has met with representatives of Bluebonnet Electric Co-op, which will likely be the beneficiary of energy produced by the plant, a portion of which will be used by Color Star.

King said if BHES comes to the area, their first order of business will be to meet with, and later form, a co-op of local growers to produce the organic material, including grain and animal waste, to power the plant.

The technology, which operates through a combination of solar and other renewable energy sources, requires around 1,000 acres of agricultural production for every megawatt of energy. Additionally, he said, the plant will produce gas, heat and other products which will expand their product offering and make their energy rates “competitive.”

Other BHES enterprises across Texas include the pending construction of a second-generation bio-methane production facility expected to break ground in Leon County, Texas, next month.

The companies are seeking support from the council and the commissioners based on their desire to work with the US Department of Agriculture in pursuing grant funds through the agency’s Resources and Conservation Development program.

King said both companies would continue negotiations to determine whether location in this area is feasible, and when planning and construction for that development will begin.

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