HASTINGS, NE — A once-in-a-generation project in underway in Hastings.

That’s the phrase Mayor Corey Stutte used at Thursday’s groundbreaking for the Heartwell Renewables production plant. He says there will be a multiplier effect locally on the $600 million investment pledged by the business.

“The scale of the investment of this project, as well as the construction time frame that’s going to go on. It’s going to take until 2024 to construct this project," Stutte said. "All of the dollars are going to be brought in from the construction phase as well as the final 60+ jobs that they’re going to create here.”

Heartwell Renewables is a joint venture between Cargill and Love’s. It claims it will be the first to both produce and market renewable diesel fuel. Cargill President Hans Kabat says conversations about a collaboration started four years ago.

“We started thinking about how to put the feedstock that we have together with the demand that they have and it sure seemed like we should be able to form a partnership out of that,” Kabat said.

Cargill will provide beef tallow, a rendered animal fat co-product. The tallow will be refined into renewable diesel at the Hastings plant, then Love’s will transport and market it across the U.S.

The site immediately east of Central Community College was selected because of the existing dual access rail, availability of talent and its ideal location, which is both in the middle of the country and near Cargill plants.

“The location is really important," Kabat said. "The less distance you have to move those feedstocks the better. That’s part of the reason that we love our location here and that we built it at the size that we did at 80 million gallons.”

That’s 80 million gallons created annually. Renewable diesel is different from biodiesel. It’s chemically identical to regular diesel but is viewed as more environmentally friendly thanks to its drop in carbon intensity and emissions.

“It’s a significant investment for Cargill and Love’s to make and shows how significant we think the future is in renewable fuels and of this community in producing those,” Kabat said.

Construction will take nearly two years to complete.