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Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

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Posted on  

March 26, 2002

Ethanol plant project continues moving forward

Steps in the right direction continue to be made as the effort to build a corn-processing ethanol plant in Fulton County moves forward. The proposed Central Illinois Energy Cooperative, of CIE, facility would produce 30 million gallons of ethanol a year and use 11.3 million bushels of corn each year. In addition to the ethanol produced, the plant would produce 96,000 tons per year of dried distillers grain, a high quality livestock feed that's a by-product of the process. Thirty-five full-time employees with salaries and benefits averaging $44,000 would be needed to staff the plant. During the construction period, 80 to 100 jobs would be created as well. And the facility is expected to have an annual economic impact on Central Illinois of more than $20 million.

Since the equity drive began November 15 of last year, nearly $16 million has been invested by farmers, agri-business people, and non-ag investors.

The $16 million represents 40-percent of the capital needed to build the $40 million plant. The remaining $24-million would be financed by banks and other lenders. CIE General Manager Mike Smith of London Mills says talks with lenders are underway and they've started the process to obtain the many permits needed to begin construction.

The project has received an additional shot-in-the-arm in the form of a $70,000 award. AgriFirst is a program of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Smith and other organizers accepted the award March 18th in Kewanee.

The site for the facility is on 280 acres of a reclaimed strip mine ground three miles south of Canton. Smith says they'll close on the site by mid-April. He expects constructions to begin this summer.

A 15-month construction period would have the plant ready to accept corn and start producing ethanol in the fall of 2003.

An important step was taken last week when the Fulton County Board unanimously voted to re-zone the site from agricultural to industrial use. The County Board also passed a resolution essentially saying the Board would serve as liaison for CIE and the bond issuer. Smith said that step will allow the cooperative to get a bond rate one to two percentage points lower than the typical present rate of about 7.5 percent. In the first year, Smith says, that could result in a savings of $200,000.

The bonds will be exempt from federal taxes and will amount to about half of the $40-million funding required.

Central Illinois Energy is an initiative of a group of more than 300 farmers and agri-businesses people from a five-county area called the Central Illinois Ag Coalition, or CIAC.

The not-for-profit CIAC will continue to work towards other projects that enhance the profitability of farming. Smith points out these projects may or may not be related to the current ethanol project.

When completed, CIE will be only the second farmer-owned ethanol plant in Illinois.

The other is a $68 million, 40 million gallons a year, facility expected to become operational later this year at Lena in the northwestern part of the state.

For more information about Central Illinois Energy, Smith can be reached at 309-668-3299. His e-mail address is msmith@CIAConline.com. And on the Internet go to www. CIAConline.com.



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