Leaders discuss IP mill

Published 8:12 am Friday, February 26, 2010

FRANKLIN—Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe met in private with Gov. Bob McDonnell on Tuesday to discuss a proposal to purchase facilities at the International Paper Co. mill.

Stacey Johnson, who serves as press secretary for the McDonnell administration, confirmed that the meeting took place Tuesday in Richmond.

“It was a good, positive meeting,” Johnson said in a written statement Thursday. “The Governor thought he had some good ideas and enjoyed hearing them.” She did not say where the meeting took place or how long it was.

McDonnell met with McAuliffe and Peter O’Keefe, a longtime political ally of McAuliffe. O’Keefe could not be reached for comment Thursday.

McAuliffe apparently visited the Franklin mill on Monday, according to a post on the social networking site Twitter.

“Toured the Franklin IP plant & met with local officials today,” McAuliffe said in the post. “Going to Lulu’s at 8 — if you’re in Richmond, stop by and have a drink with me.”

Lulu’s is a restaurant in the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood of Richmond.

McAuliffe and a group of investors, including O’Keefe, have reportedly made an offer to purchase some parts or the entire infrastructure of the mill with the intention of converting it into a biomass energy power plant.

O’Keefe is the non-executive director for Leaf Clean Energy Co., a consortium whose portfolio includes businesses involved in the production of cellulosic and sugar cane-based ethanol, solar, wind and hydroelectric power, wood-fueled biomass, waste-to-energy gasification and landfill gas-to-methane.

Local economic development officials believe that as many as 15 companies of various sizes are interested in some or all of the paper mill facilities at Franklin, and have submitted unsolicited proposals to IP.

Leaf Clean Energy, a company that was incorporated in the Cayman Islands in 2007, is believed to be a mid-sized player among the various proposals.

Franklin Mill Communications Manager Desmond Stills said earlier this month that today is the deadline for submitting unsolicited proposals to IP.