FORT MYERS, Fla. - You gave them $10 million to build a lab and create 60 high-paying jobs. Lee County Commissioners that gave Algenol the money, figured it was an investment in the future. But now the company says it's expanding somewhere else and it's Florida's fault!
Algenol CEO Paul Woods says his business is under attack from the state of Florida and he no longer feels comfortable investing hundreds of millions of dollars here; despite the fact that you gave him $10 million.
Algenol biofuels says it's weeks away from a milestone, producing 10,000 gallons per acre per year of ethanol from algae. If it comes to fruition, Woods says it will revolutionize the ethanol industry. But that revolution won't be happening in Florida.
"There's zero chance that we'll build here in Florida," he told us.
Paul says his business is under attack. This, after the governor signed a repeal of the renewable fuel standards which required all gas in Florida to have 10 percent ethanol. The legislation infuriated Woods, but it won't make any difference at the pump. That's because the federal government has the same 10 percent ethanol requirement . That means there won't be any changes to the gas you put in your car.
"This isn't about threats, it isn't about any of those things. It's about sound business judgements, regulatory certainty and I don't have that," Woods explained.
In 2010, Lee County Commissioners gave Algenol $10 million to build its lab and create 60 jobs. The company doubled that, hiring 120 people at an average salary of $98,000 a year.
Woods says those jobs won't be going anywhere; the lab will remain open. Though the company is under no further obligations to the county, Commissioner Frank Mann, who voted against giving them $10 million, says if Algenol were to expand, Lee County should be the first choice.
"I don't know of any other state or any other county that has been as nice as Lee County. So you would think that we would be first choice," Commissioner Mann said.
Woods says his business will decide in the coming months where it will make a $500 million investment that will create 2,000 jobs. But at the top of his list is Texas which is interesting, considering that Texas Governor Rick Perry is no friend of ethanol. Last year he joined a coalition of six other states, asking for the federal government to drop the ethanol mandate. So why would Algenol choose that state over Florida?
"Texas could have some challenges but they also have significant benefits," explained Woods.
While he also said that Lee County has been good to his business and that he'd like to expand here, he says the state took away the welcome mat.
"I will have no choice but to build elsewhere," said Woods.
Another location Woods told us he's looking at for a possible expansion spot is New Mexico. We should also mention that on top of the $10 million Lee County gave to Algenol, the feds pitched in another $25 million. But the federal government doesn't really care where Algenol builds their facility.