One of the reasons that a proposed $330 million fertilizer plant for Reading was scuttled is that the company behind the plan failed to provide sufficient financial statements.
“We were doing our due diligence,” Adam Mukerji, executive director of the Reading Redevelopment Authority, said this morning about the finances of BioNitrogen Holdings Corp. of West Palm Beach, Fla. “We had certain prerequisites for the site and they did not meet them. And financial statements is one of them.”
BioNitrogen Holdings planned to build a $330 million fertilizer plant at Reading’s 50-acre Riverview Industrial Park – bringing with it hundreds of jobs.
In February, a press conference was to be held at Reading’s City Hall, where the Reading Redevelopment Authority, the owner of the land at 1 Opportunity Drive, was to announce a formal agreement – or memorandum of understanding – with BioNitrogen. But, moments before the meeting was to be held, it was abruptly halted when the redevelopment authority had unanswered questions.
“For any folks who were nervous about a fertilizer plant going into a very densely populated area close to a school and a Boys & Girls Club, you may allay their concerns,” said Jon Scott, president and CEO of Greater Reading Economic Partnership. The organization works closely with the redevelopment authority to recruit developers to Berks County sites.
BioNitrogen, a clean-tech company, uses patented technology to convert agricultural biomass into urea used in the agricultural industry as a crop fertilizer. BioNitrogen’s technology transforms residual agricultural waste and other biomass materials into bulk urea for sale to agricultural wholesalers and retailers.
BioNitrogen’s intent was to buy the land from the redevelopment authority and transform it into a plant that would convert solid waste biomass into urea fertilizer. The authority is seeking $5 million for the property, a price that Mukerji said is negotiable.
“We are willing to be flexible depending on the jobs it creates,” he said. “Our goal is to create manufacturing jobs for the city of Reading.”
The authority bought the site in November 2013, an undeveloped property at one time planned for the Berkshire Bottling Works. The site is zoned for manufacturing and commercial use and has a 105,000-square-foot building pad with a partial steel structure in place. The property is equipped with water and sewer mains and has rail access.
The property is still available for purchase until a memorandum of understanding is signed with a prospective company. Dennis Witwer of the redevelopment authority on Thursday confirmed that there are three companies vying for the site.
Mukerji declined to identify the companies.
If and when a memorandum of understanding is signed, the authority has to remove the property from the real estate market for 90 days while the parties continue to explore the viability of the project.