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Northeast Washington businesses get stimulus funds

Companies aim to save 300 jobs with $3.2 million

Three northeast Washington companies will receive $3.2 million in federal stimulus money that will add or save more than 300 jobs, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced Tuesday.

Demand Energy Networks, of Liberty Lake, Borgford Bioenergy, based in Colville, and Ponderay Newsprint Inc., near Usk, are among 13 Washington companies Gregoire and the Department of Commerce said will split $16.5 million intended to support innovative energy initiatives and the people employed as a result.

DEN Vice President Randi Neilson said the recipients must negotiate contract terms with the state by June 30. After that, the company can submit claims for expenses against the $1.5 million grant. A match is required, but the state will allow companies to count expenditures prior to the signing of a contract towards the match amount, she said.

For almost a year, DEN has been testing battery-based systems that allow utilities to store power during low-use periods when prices are lower. When demand increases, the batteries can put power back into the grid.

The systems reduce utility power costs, and if installed in businesses or neighborhoods, they eliminate the need for new distribution lines.

Neilson said DEN will use its money to accelerate development of its technology and build a sales and installation work force up to 93 by the end of 2011.

According to a state news release, Borgford will use its $771,406 in loans and grants to continue development of its Kulzer BioEnergy Park near Valley, Wash. The company gasifies wood and wood waste to produce electricity and byproducts such as biochar, a soil additive.

“This will help create more jobs than we have already created with previous partnership efforts,” said owner Dale Borgford. The goal is 27 new or saved jobs.

Ponderay Newsprint, with $1.4 million in loans and grants, will finance installation of systems to improve motor efficiency in its newsprint mill near Usk, in Pend Oreille County. Boosting efficiency by 5 percent would reduce electricity use by 25,663 megawatt-hours, enough for 2,000 homes.

The plant employs 184.

A fourth grant for $2 million to AltAir Fuels LLC could benefit Eastern Washington farmers who grow feedstocks for a Skagit County biofuels refinery.