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DETROIT-Consumers Energy and a Grand Rapids, MI company are teaming up to convert a. power plant byproduct–fly ash–into aerated concrete building materials. The utility will lease a 20-acre site at its J .H. Campbell Complex to Phoenix Materials Co. for the construction of a 50,000-sf plant.

At full operation, the $7-million plant will use 50,000 tons of fly ash a year from the Campbell Complex, which is located between Grand Haven and Holland, MI.

The plant will employ 12 to 30 people, depending on production levels. Terms of the contract aren’t being released.

Fly ash is a byproduct of burning coal and has chemical properties similar to Portland cement. The aerated mixture is poured into molds to make blocks and wall and roof panels for residential, commercial, and light industrial construction.

“The new plant means jobs for western Michigan. Plus, the aerated concrete products are state-of-the-art construction materials and as demand grows, this plant can expand to use up to 100,000 tons of fly ash a year,” says Greg Northrup, the utility’s director of economic development.

The president of Phoenix Materials, Phil Blanchard, praised the utility’s executives for being open to the idea and flexible in working out the lease.

“It was clear ear1y on that the Campbell Complex was the ideal site for this project,” Blanchard says. “We’re eager to move forward and get the plant built and start production.”

Phoenix Materials is a company founded by Hartwick Capital LLC for this venture. Hartwick is a Grand Rapids-based merchant bank with ownership positions in several area companies and was the lead bidder in the recent Quality Stores bankruptcy auction.

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