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Dutch biodiesel equipment maker selects Lethbridge

January 18, 2007

- A European leader in alternative energy production has chosen Lethbridge for its first North American plant. Officials of BioKing, a Netherlands company building biodiesel fuel processing equipment, announced Wednesday they’ll be opening an assembly plant this spring and expected to have 100 employees by year’s end.

“We are aiming to become the world’s leading biodiesel equipment manufacturer,” said Hans Van de Ven. “Building a plant in Lethbridge will bring us one step further toward reaching our goal.

BioKing’s equipment can convert all known vegetable and animal fats into fuel usable in diesel motors, the company says. Van de Ven said the company has already sold equipment to customers in Western Canada, and it’s expecting to supply a developing Asian market as well as U.S. and Canadian customers from its Lethbridge base.

The existing plant in s-Gravenpolder, currently under expansion, ships 20 to 25 farm-scale and commercial-sized fuel manufacturing units per week to eastern and western Europe. Van de Ven said the company has leased temporary space on 31 Street North, but will be looking for a permanent Lethbridge location after getting production and sales underway.

Production employees, sales and support staff will be hired locally, he added, and the company is also looking for sales representation across North America. Lethbridge’s transportation links and its proximity to the U.S. were among factors bringing the plant here, he said. BioKing also looked at Calgary, Van de Ven said, but was discouraged by big-city prices, acute labour shortages and lack of response from economic development officials.

Here, he said, the staff at Economic Development Lethbridge produced all the information he needed within a few days.

“What happened here in three days would never have happened anywhere else,” he said, praising EDL chief Cheryl Dick and her associates.

The Lethbridge region’s commitment to partnerships in alternative energy was another reason for coming, said Van de Ven.

“This is a new product and we’ll need help promoting it.”

The Southern Alberta Alternative Energy Partnership has already taken steps to encourage biomass, biodiesel and other “green” energy technologies and advisory committee chairman, John Kolk, described the company’s announcement as “a welcome opportunity in building our regional message. “Not only does this give us a manufacturing anchor for alternative energy, BioKing will provide easy access to those interested in biodiesel production for local application or distribution.”

Van de Ven and his son Marco, both general directors of BioKing, will return to Lethbridge in mid-February to oversee equipment installation and the business start-up. They can be contacted, meanwhile, through the company’s website, www.bioking.nl.

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