Keller tours local plant; aims to advocate for businesses
MIFFLINTOWN — In an effort to better advocate for local industry, Rep. Fred Keller, R-Selinsgrove, on Thursday toured Juniata County wood pellet processing plant, Lignetics Group, and discussed ongoing challenges the facility faces.
“We like to come by and see the community members who own businesses. I think one thing that gets confused a lot with policymakers … they like to talk about businesses like they’re nameless, faceless entities,” said Keller. “In Pa.-12 and across much of our nation, our businesses are made up of hardworking, thoughtful people who care about our community … we want to make sure we stay in touch with the work they’re doing and make sure our team understands what is happening and see how we can be helpful when we’re looking at policies.
“We want to learn more about the team so we can advocate for them because the more we understand, the better we can tell their story, which is the American story of energy independence and success,” Keller said.
Having been a business owner before being elected to public office, Keller said he understands many of the struggles that businesses can face and says he couldn’t imagine having to manage through a pandemic.
“You have enough challenges running a business, you certainly don’t need government getting in the way,” he said.
One challenge posed by Bruce Lisle, who does strategic initiatives for Lignetics Group, is the average age of loggers is rising.
Keller explained that this makes it important to look at education and opportunities for teaching younger generations about the industry.
“If you went and talked to any kids in junior high or high school about being a logger, they might tell you they would think it was a guy in the woods with a chainsaw without modern equipment and that’s the kind of think we need to look for when we talk about education and workforce development,” he said.
Lisle explained that the nature of logging has evolved, with much of harvesting being performed mechanically.
“You would like that would be a great occupation,” he said.
Another issue, Lisle said, is that some policymakers do not see biomass as a renewable — or carbon neutral — energy source.
“It’s a crying shame, but it’s a battle we’re fighting right now,” he said. “We are renewable and we are very sustainable and we are an integral part of the whole nation’s economy.”
According to Lisle, Lignetics produces about 100,000 tons of material each year, which equals about 5 million 40-pound bags of wood pellets.
“We probably take in close to 200,000 tons of green material,” he said.
The facility employs 35 people and is PFI certified and randomly inspected each month.
“We make a good, high quality fuel. We take our quality very seriously,” he said.
The plant has been located in Mifflintown on Energex Road for 21 years.
“We changed the nature of forestry,” Lisle said. “We pour between $4 and $5 million a year into local forestry … that’s not too bad for something that used to go into the landfill.”