SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

September 6, 2012

Toyota firm a partner in Salem plant redevelopment

SALEM — Footprint Power is taking on a big-time international partner in its first venture, the development of a natural gas power plant at the site of this city’s old coal plant.

The New Jersey-based company announced yesterday that it is partnering with Toyota Tsusho Corp., a trading company headquartered in Japan that develops businesses around the world and is part of a group of companies that includes Toyota Motors Corp.

The partnership gives Footprint “instant credibility,” according to state Rep. John Keenan of Salem.

Toyota Tsusho will be “actively involved in the development process, contributing financially to the project as well as providing its expertise in development and operation of electric generating facilities,” Footprint said in a statement.

“I think it’s great news,” said Keenan, co-chairman of the Legislature’s joint committee on telecommunications, utilities and energy. “I think when people hear Toyota, they instantly think of a brand name and extensive credibility.”

In 2010, Toyota Tsusho acquired a 45-percent interest in a natural gas plant in Texas, and last year increased its share to 50 percent in a natural gas plant in Ontario, Canada, according to a press release from Footprint.

Toyota Tsusho appears to be a “powerhouse,” said Rob Lutts, president and chief executive officer of Cabot Money Management in Salem. Lutts specializes in China, India and emerging global markets.

Lutts said the announcement should be “great for us and great for Footprint. (Toyota Tsusho) has deep pockets, certainly, and can only help their financial wherewithal to complete the project.”

Footprint, which is based in Bridgewater, N.J., was founded in 2009 by two lawyers with extensive backgrounds in the energy field who were looking to redevelop shuttered fossil fuel plants. However, the Salem plant is only their first project, which drew criticism in some quarters, or at least questions, when their acquisition of the plant was announced last month.

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