Published On: Thu, Jan 30th, 2014

Laurel business was one of two Cedar Co. companies to get federal grants in 2013

LAUREL  — Laurel BioComposite LLC was one of 153 businesses in Nebraska to receive financial assistance from the United States Department of Agriculture.

With the partnership of Security Bank in Laurel, USDA Rural Development provided a $5 million guaranteed loan to Laurel BioComposite LLC.

The loan was part of the USDA’s Business and Industry Loan Guarantee program. Total, the USDA Rural Development sent $20 million out to rural Nebraska in the 2013 federal fiscal year through its various business programs.

Tim Bearnes, Laurel BioComposite LLC’s chief executive officer, said this guaranteed loan was necessary in order to start full-scale production.

“We want to keep creating good jobs in the area and add value to agriculture,” he said.

The money will be used to purchase the equipment required for production at Laurel BioComposite LLC and to provide working capital during the first year of operation.

Laurel BioComposite LLC was formed in 2007. It produces agricultural-based bio-products for the plastic industry. The products created are Bio-Res powder and pellets.

They can be used as a filler or additive when making plastic and can replace a portion of the traditional oil-based resins in plastic. The motto at Laurel BioComposite LLC is, “We don’t make the plastic. We make the plastic ‘greener.’”

According to Bearnes, Bio-Res products are environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

They raise the renewable content of plastic products by replacing petroleum-based resins, he said.

Many other plastic products that are considered “green” are not cost effective like Bio-Res products, which are renewable and biodegradable, Business Manager Annette Junck added.

“We’re trying to make a difference by decreasing our need to use oil when manufacturing plastic,” Junck said.

The Bio-Res products at Laurel BioComposite are made from distillers grains, a non-toxic byproduct of corn ethanol production.

They can be used to replace 20 percent to 40 percent of traditional oil-based resins in plastic, while maintaining or enhancing the desired characteristics of final products, Bearnes said.

Laurel BioComposite LLC is entering the second phase of construction. The company will add a second production line and bulk material handling to their facilities.

Soon, everything will be up and running, Junck said. Total annual capacity will increase to 48 million pounds when this happens, she added.

In September, Laurel BioComposite LLC announced the completion of its first phase of construction, a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and the first production line, which has a 7-million-pound yearly capacity.

In 2014, Laurel BioComposite’s Bio-Res sales are expected to continually grow, Junck said.

Currently, seven people work at Laurel BioComposite, including a technical director in Eden Prairie, Minn., where the company’s lab is.

There are plans to employ from 12-15 after the second phase of construction is complete, Junck said.

In another United States Department of Agriculture business program, Burbach Countryside Dairy of Hartington was awarded a $300,000 value-added producer grant. These funds will be used to help market and promote the dairy’s milk and cheese.

Burbach Countryside Dairy, owned by Dean and Lisa Burbach, provides milk in returnable glass bottles and a variety of cheese. It supplies milk to over 70 grocery stores in the tri-state area and cheese to many of these, according to the dairy’s website.

Dean and Lisa Burbach declined to comment on the grant they received.