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  1. Business

Alternative fuel company opens $20 million Plant City factory

PLANT CITY — On the one side of its alternative fuel business, MLMC deals with companies like Rooms to Go and Williams Sonoma that pay haulers to get rid of their wooden pallets, cardboard, paper, plastic wrap, foam, bubble wrap, film and assorted packaging.

On the other, there's the global cement and building materials supply company Cemex, which wants to burn something cleaner than coal in the kiln at its Brooksville plant.

MLMC, a Colorado-based company that this week opened a $20 million factory on County Line Road, is the bridge between the two.

"The world has really grown up around what we do," MLMC chief executive officer Todd Wenner said. At its 103,000-square-foot plant, MLMC — its full name is Materials Lifecycle Management Co. — will reduce huge piles of combustible waste to small, crumbly "enviro-fuelcubes." The EPA has recognized the cubes, which are about 85 percent paper, as an approved fuel for energy-intensive industrial operations.

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By the time the Plant City facility hits its capacity, which the company projects will take two years, it will divert 400 million pounds, or 200,000 tons, of waste a year from local landfills. MLMC is starting with about 60 companies providing the waste, which it hauls away for 15 to 20 percent less than commercial waste haulers charge, Wenner said. But it has the capacity to handle 500 to 600 suppliers, and it estimates that there are 31,000 companies in the market that produce the kind of waste it processes.

At the moment, there is only one consumer of the fuel cubes, and that's Cemex, which has customers in 50 countries. A company spokesman said Cemex wouldn't comment on its arrangements with MLMC, but this is not Cemex's first use of alternative fuel. Since 2005, it has spent at least $175 million to retrofit kilns to burn fuel other than coal. By 2014, the company said 94 percent of its plants were processing alternative fuels.

At peak capacity, MLMC's plant will produce more fuel cubes than Cemex expects to burn, so Wenner anticipates talking with other potential users, among them electric utilities in Tampa and Lakeland.

The company is starting with about a dozen employees but expects to ramp up to 45. If it hits that number, and the jobs pay average of at least $58,383 a year, then it will qualify for up to $225,000 in incentives — $180,000 from the state of Florida and $22,500 each from Plant City and Hillsborough County. The company is in discussions to build two more plants in 2020, one to produce fuel for a cement plant near Miami, and the other in Louisville, Ky.

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Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

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