The Michigan Magnet Fund announced its $10 million investment in a $45 million Verso Paper Corp. renewable energy project in its Quinnesec Plant in the Upper Peninsula. The project will meet up to 95 percemt of its energy needs using renewable biomass sources.

The project will make the plant cost competitive in an increasingly competitive commodity market and keep 475 people working there. An additional 50 persons are projected to be hired by local small businesses that will supply the biomass to the plant.

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MMF is an alliance of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, and the Great Lakes Capital Fund. It is a federally certified community development entity which won a $120 million new market tax credit investment allocation from the CDFI Fund.

MMF has invested $82 million in 12 projects in eligible low income distressed neighborhoods in eight cities in Michigan. MMF was joined in this investment by the Local Initiative Support Corp. and CapFund New Markets LLC, which invested $17 million and $5 million respectively to provide a total Qualified Equity Investment of $32 million.

JP Morgan Chase through its subsidiary purchased the new market tax credits from the three community development entities for $8.98 million to permit the CDEs to make investments that are more flexible than the market can provide.

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“The implementation of the Quinnesec Renewable Energy Project is in alignment with Verso’s three-pronged energy strategy, which is to reduce overall energy consumption, generate more green energy from renewable biomass and reduce our carbon footprint, all while reducing costs,” said Mike Jackson, Verso’s president and CEO.

“This investment is an important part of Michigan’s commitment to its rural areas,” said Ted Rozeboom, MMF presidnet. “It not only makes one of our basic businesses more competitive but does so by developing and using renewable resources and reducing Michigan’s dependence on fossil fuels. MMF can only invest in projects that could not obtain the financing from any other source.”

Added Mike Sussman, Quinnesec mill manager: “Verso is fortunate to have active partners in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Dickinson County and Breitung Township, who worked diligently to help make our Renewable Energy Project a reality.”

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A direct result of the state-wide partnership is the designation of a Forest Products Processing Renaissance Zone, which allows a company within the zone to operate virtually free of all state and local taxes over the life of the designation.