I am often asked why I try to find synergies that not only benefit Blue Marble but also benefit other companies, groups, universities, and local governments. It is founded in my firm belief that creating a healthy ecosystem will not only help Blue Marble thrive but will also help all distributed, biomass-based businesses survive and thrive.
One of the many great promises of clean tech is distributed production. I believe that it is the basis not only for the success of biomass-based companies, but moreover is essential to creating a stable ecosystem of industry.
What is distributed production?
When compared to coal and oil, biomass has a lower carbon density per pound. Therefore, higher volumes of biomass are needed to produce the same amount of product or energy that can be produced from fossil resources. Due to this phenomenon, transportation costs in a centralized production model are prohibitively cost ineffective for biomass-based businesses. The distributed production model establishes functional facilities everywhere that produce smaller amounts of product and eliminate the cost of hauling large volumes of biomass from far away.
From a social impact viewpoint, distributed production spreads skills and assets across the community, region, and country. By raising the overall education base of the community, region, or country in each facility location, the possibility for innovation and collaboration among related industries increases in the big picture. This model also insulates industries against disruption from geopolitical or environmental risks because not all industrial eggs are in a single basket.
Operating smaller facilities in more rural areas gives each location more opportunity to collaborate and partner with others in the region to create a vibrant industrial ecosystem.
Blue Marble Biomaterials currently operates a facility in Missoula, Montana. Missoula is centrally located at the hub of five valleys on the I-90 corridor, a major transportation route between the East and West coasts. This hub is located near strong forestry resources in Western Montana and many agricultural resources in Eastern Washington and Eastern Montana. The town also has a university with a focus on business and the sciences. The community and the state uphold conservation in the state constitution, creating a community that understands the importance of sustainable development. The best part is that two strong biomass-based companies, in addition to Blue Marble, are present in Missoula as well, AlgEvolve and Rivertop Renewables.
In other words, this community has the nutrients to support an ecosystem of sustainable business and act as the foundation to spread distributed facilities around the region and the country.
Companies and organizations can pool resources such as labor and research at the community level, creating a community brain trust where new business models, inventors, and entrepreneurs can piggyback on established companies to get even more new businesses started. Companies can also create feedstock synergies to reduce pollution, waste, and production costs.
Ecosystems are stronger than any single entity and as we look at economic recovery in the U.S. and the establishment of new industries, the ecosystem approach can stabilize the whole process and move us away from traditional boom-bust cycles.
-James Stephens, President, CEO & CSO