Bioplastic, bioenergy center opens in Waterloo, Iowa

By Susanne Retka Schill
Web exclusive posted Dec. 5, 2008 at 9:41 a.m. CST

In February, the first tenant is expected to move into a new bioplastics business incubator in Waterloo, Iowa, and bioplastics developer MCG BioComposites LLC is looking for more interested businesses. MCG BioComposites has been contracted to provide marketing and industrial recruitment services for Cedar Valley TechWorks. Sponsored by the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance, TechWorks will be developed as a virtual and physical regional center for the development of bioproducts and bioenergy industries.

"The TechWorks concept has been in development for over five years in partnership with Deere & Co., which provided the land, buildings and various resources and has an interest in the project to explore additional opportunities in the commercialization of biomass into bioproducts, bioprocesses and bioenergy," said Sam McCord, president and chief executive officer of MCG BioComposites. "This project will provide new jobs related to applying science through research and development, establishing of incubators for new businesses of the bioeconomy leading to commercialization and eventually new manufacturing operations of bioproducts."

One of the projects underway is the development of a bioplastics pilot-scale production facility and testing laboratory at TechWorks. An entrepreneur or development company will be able to produce their bioplastic formulations, make sample parts and test the physical properties, McCord said. MCG BioComposites works with a number of clients to access such services and will become one of the tenants at TechWorks. MCG BioComposites staff, along with John Deere technical staff will help tenants with the testing and commercialization of their biomass applications. "There even is the potential that John Deere can become the entrepreneur's customer," he added.

In addition to providing an entrepreneur incubator, TechWorks will recruit existing plastics manufacturers who could use the facility for the development of bioplastic replacements.

The first tenant ready to move into the facility is the University of Northern Iowa's Ag-based Lubricant Center, McCord said. There is room to house12 to 15 businesses in the first 150,000 square-foot building, with a second building available for an equal number of business as TechWorks grows.

When John Deere moved into a new advanced manufacturing center at another location in Waterloo, the company donated more than 40 acres and several buildings to the Waterloo Development Corp.
The Waterloo Development Corp. joined forces with groups in Cedar Falls, Iowa, seven miles away along the Cedar River to create the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance. The alliance formed Cedar Valley TechWorks in 2006, laying the groundwork for the development of the TechWorks campus. In addition to the technology center for research, development and commercialization efforts, TechWorks will include an agriculture museum and exhibit center.