Hurt checks out biofuels, glass research at industrial center

Friday, May 8, 2015

U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-5th District, saw some of the businesses responsible for about 2,300 jobs — including tobacco biofuels and flexible glass research — while touring the Dan River Business Development Center as part of an area agriculture and business visit Friday.

“To those that are so invested in taking our Southside economy to the next level — thank you,” the third-term representative said. “There’s a lot of support that is here in this building — the localities of Pittsylvania and Danville coming together to create more jobs.”

Hurt said the businesses at the center were engaged in exciting and innovative research, and he is ready to help them in Washington. While in office, Hurt said he had pushed for small businesses when it came to policy and regulations, particularly with regard to access to capital.

“If there is anything that we can ever do with specific issues in terms of federal agencies, please let us know,” he said, noting his placement on the financial services committee.

Hurt first toured the IRflex facility in the complex, which manufactures fiber cable products for use in chemical sensing, laser surgery and infrared air defense systems. In the lab, employees tested the fiberglass under fume hoods while workers talked to Hurt about the products.

Hurt also toured Engineered Biopharmaceuticals which designs protein-based drugs for pharmaceutical clients. Directors told Hurt they planned to scale up the project in the near future.

Finally, Hurt headed out to the greenhouse, where 12-feet-tall tobacco plants towered over the group. Tyton Bioenergy Systems showed off experiments with tobacco plant-based petroleum and diesel fuels. The group also partners with Virginia Tech to test out fields for the new application for the plant. Representatives said the tobacco could have three times as much of an ethanol yield as corn, as well as an ability to grow in more climates than the vegetable.

Development Center Manager Ralph Hogg said since opening in April 2001, the center had been wildly successful due to both the county and city.

“This partnership, as far as I’m concerned, was the first joint partnership, and those 2,300 came by the commitment they made back in the late 1990s,” Hogg said.