On Friday we cut the ribbon on our enzymatic biodiesel plant.
It appears as if it is going to be a big deal. Senator Hagan is coming. So is Joe Jobe. He’s the CEO of the National Biodiesel Board. Steven Burke is coming. He’s the CEO of the Biofuels Center of North Carolina. And Larry Shirley is coming. He is North Carolina’s Green Collar Jobs Czar.
I’ve been passing out invitations around town. What I typically say is, “If you don’t care about the biodiesel, come for the free local food. If you don’t care about that come for the free local beer. If you don’t care about any of those, come for the live music. And if you don’t care about that, come for the speeches…”
I think we might be crushed. We have more RSVPs than we have ever had for a ribbon cutting—and we’ve had some pretty big parties at the Plant. We’re making nametags to hand out at the gate. We’re lining up a golf cart to shuttle people to faraway parking. The place is pulsing with anticipation for this one.
I just came back from a week in Scotland with the family. In between the pints at the pubs and the “wee drams” of Scotch, and the unending history lessons, and the pure simple power of the Scottish Highlands, I lost all cell phone contact, fell off of email, and returned to a land where I could no longer remember my login.
That’s the sign of a good vacation.
But this morning I headed into our regular Monday staff meeting, and the energy associated with this ribbon cutting was palpable.
The industry is interested. On Friday morning Joe Jobe will meet with all of North Carolina’s biodiesel producers over at Central Carolina Community College. He’ll tour their program, and probably discuss the multi-million dollar campaign they are about to launch. Rachel is hosting that one.
Looks like we’ll have suppliers, competitors, and customers showing up for this one.
Politicians are interested. A cursory scan of the RSVP list shows that regulators, policy makers, and stakeholders are coming. We’ve had an overwhelming response from the board members of the Biofuels Center of North Carolina—which Steven Burke runs and which I helped him found.
The scientific community appears interested. Kurt Creemer from Novozymes is going to speak. They are helping us throw this party. We’ve had researchers from all over the place express interest in this technology, and it looks like some of them are showing up. Novozymes enzymes, combined with Piedmont’s know-how could potentially open the biodiesel world up to billions of gallons of new viable feedstocks.
Our Coop is interested. We are having a board meeting at 1:00 on Friday afternoon, before the media arrives, and our volunteer board members are going to stick around for the event. We’ll have drivers showing up. Some of them are probably sick of our ribbon cuttings, but some of them know they are the straw that stirs the drink. Sometimes I think that Piedmont is where it is today because of 14 gallon fills.
We have a lot of work to do. Today we scrambled from staff meeting to hold our various positions. Katy was doing interviews with the press. Rachel was feeding the fabrication guys with parts. We hired Gray to start painting tanks and railings. McCayne was cranking on numbers. Link was working on boilers. Gabe and I ran to Raleigh to swap some grease dumpsters around. Paul was receiving shipments and keeping the fabrication guys on course. Sam was painting and plumbing and fixing stuff. Ray came in on his day off, like he always does, for staff meeting.
Each Monday he leaves our meeting to go home to do whatever. I suspect he works on his suntan. And I think a lot of us are jealous, often forgetting that he pulled shifts on Saturday and Sunday to create some free time during the week.
Tomorrow the landscaping crew will kick in. Today I fixed the lawnmower in anticipation. There will be weeding, and mowing, and deadheading, and trimming to get ready for our guests.
Our ribbon cutting is four days out. From what I can tell this is going to be a big one. Who knows? If it’s a slow night in Pittsboro, the townfolk might show up. Many of them are accustomed to parties at the Plant.
On a day like today I feel as if I am climbing into my kayak. I quietly paddle out across still water, I’m glad to be back home, the current picks up, there is no turning back, and in the distance I hear a waterfall.
Right now I am fastening the chin strap on my helmet and looking forward to the crashing waters ahead…