City, GranBio, lawyers, lawmakers & state representatives meet to discuss Alpena Biorefinery

A group of city and business leaders, attorneys, lawmakers, and state representatives gathered at Alpena City Hall this week, to discuss past due taxes and a tax-exempt renaissance zone designation for Alpena Biorefinery, Inc.

The biorefinery is now owned by GranBio, a Brazilian company. The owners of the company were also in town for the meeting.

The biorefinery currently produces wood molasses, which is used by large livestock feed companies as binder for cattle feed pellets. When the facility stopped producing ethanol in August 2015, a tax-exempt renaissance zone was revoked by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). That meant the company had to start paying real and personal property taxes. To date, the company has only paid real taxes for 2016.

The city is being asked to forgive all past due taxes, penalties and fees; and to approve a new tax-exempt renaissance zone for the company which would be retroactive to 2016.

But the city and other taxing authorities were made whole on taxes through the county’s tax revolving fund. Those monies were budgeted and already spent in past years. And the county is out the money it paid out to the city and other taxing authorities.

The owners of GranBio have said the Alpena plant might have to close if the taxes are not totally forgiven.

At the end of the discussion this week, the city made an offer to GranBio officials to pay back a portion of taxes due – those that have already been spent. The exact figure is not known but the total tax bill exceeds $750,000.

The owners of GranBio are taking the offer back to the company’s board of directors in Brazil.

City officials are now awaiting a response from the company.

The biorefinery employed as many as 33 workers when it was producing ethanol. It now employs 12, 11 of which are full-time.