Rose: Central Illinois can be bioprocessing world leader, creating thousands of jobs for region

As a catalyst to help Illinois compete for up to 20,000 jobs in a new industry sector, State Sen. Chapin Rose hosted the state’s top economic and agriculture leaders on a tour of the Integrated Bioprocessing Research Lab (IBRL) at the University of Illinois in Urbana and the James R. Randall Research Lab and Midwest Inland Port at ADM in Decatur March 13.

The group learned about the enormous future economic and jobs potential in Central Illinois through bioprocessing research, development, and production.

Joining Rose in Urbana at the IBRL was Director Sean McCarthy from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), Director Raymond Poe from the Department of Agriculture; Dean Kim Kidwell from the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois; Director Vijay Singh of the IBRL, and several local agriculture and economic development leaders. Later in the day, the state leaders met with local industry leaders to tour the Randall Research Lab and Midwest Inland Port at ADM in Decatur.

Rose says it’s all in an effort to give these leaders a working knowledge of what the I-72 corridor has to offer so they can spread the world to their international contacts.

“Central Illinois is perfectly suited to be the world leader of the new bioprocessing industry with the production and shipping capacity of Decatur on one side, the research of the IBRL in Urbana on the other side, and the best corn and beans in the world in between,” Rose said. “With these advantages, Illinois can become the number one place for investment in biochemistry research, development and production. Nearly 20,000 jobs are estimated to come from this new industry. We have something no one else in the world has to offer so the potential for jobs is there.”

“It is great to join Senator Rose, Director Poe and leaders at the University of Illinois to tour this cutting-edge facility,” McCarthy said. “The IBRL will help position Illinois as a major player in the growing biochemistry industry by equipping the next generation with the knowledge, education, and skills they need to have a successful future in bioprocessing research and development.”

“Illinois is the number one soybean producing state in the nation,” Poe said. “Agricultural exports are extremely vital to Illinois’ economy especially since 95% of the world’s population lives outside the United States. Illinois farmers and ranchers have a great responsibility to feed and clothe the world. To strengthen our agricultural economy, we need trade agreements that set high-standards and address the 21st century issues of our global economy, and the infrastructure to support the demand of Illinois products.”

“The IBRL is going to be the state-of-the-art industrial biotech translational research facility that will accelerate the path from discovery to commercialization of processes utilizing chemical, physical, and biological conversion of renewable feedstocks to biofuels and other value-added products,” Singh said.

Rose led the effort to secure $26 million from the state last year to help construct the IBRL, which is critical infrastructure in Illinois’ bid to become the world leader in this field. The IBRL will complement the production and transportation capacity of Decatur and the surrounding area’s corn and soybean production, and work with the industrial biotechnology sector to accelerate growth of this rapidly emerging biotechnology sector.

Rose points to a number or reasons why Central Illinois can be on the cutting edge of the bioprocessing industry:

·         Decatur is host to the production capacity of ADM, and Tate & Lyle, and their own top-flight research laboratories;

·         The region is surrounded by corn and beans – the two crops necessary to fuel this conversion from petroleum-based chemicals to renewable, environmentally-friendly biochemical products;

·         Decatur has the shipping capacity of the Midwest Inland Port – with 100 million customers within 10 hours truck traffic of Decatur;

·         The State of Illinois’ strategic investment in the IBRL to bring the world-class brainpower of the University of Illinois to industry to serve as a catalyst to research and production allowing us to get in on “the ground floor” of this new industry.

In Springfield, Sen. Rose and State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) introduced legislation this year designed to grow Illinois’ bio-based economy. Senate Bill 1656 provides incentives to Illinois businesses to produce and sell new renewable products made from biomass and other renewable sources by providing a state tax credit to Illinois companies that produce and sell new manufactured products made from manufactured bio-based molecules of biomass feedstocks. These products represent the next generation of advanced biofuels and include renewable chemicals and food additives.

The legislation builds upon Illinois’ strong agricultural base and seeks to provide new products and markets derived from grain commodities and their by-products. Universities and private companies are investing in a race with other states in research and development to introduce these products to the marketplace.

Industrial Biotechnology is enabling the production of a new generation of renewable chemicals, biobased materials and bioplastics produced from biomass. These can serve as a replacement or supplement to traditional fossil fuel-based chemicals and products. The emergence of this technology represents a historic opportunity to reverse job losses in the chemicals and plastics sectors, increase energy security, replace fossil fuel-derived chemicals, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, maintain U.S leadership in clean energy and chemistry, and build domestic renewable chemicals and biobased production facilities. 

Chapin Rose

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