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Posted on  

May 17, 2002

Nebraska - Nordic Biofuels chooses Buffalo County

By Gretchen Fowler

RAVENNA -- More than 200 people attended a community meeting at the Ravenna Auditorium Wednesday night when Nordic Biofuels officials announced plans to build an 80 million-gallon-per-year ethanol plant southeast of the city.

"I think it's a good show of how much interest and excitement there is over the proposed ethanol plant in Ravenna," Dale Pohlmann, president of the Ravenna Economic Development Corporation said of the turnout. "It's a big deal, and I think you all know that and that's why you're here."

Ron Tillery, president of the Economic Development Council of Buffalo County, said the plant "will consume millions of bushels of corn, produce hundreds of thousands of tons of dry grain and start a ripple effect of economic activity throughout the region."

Groundbreaking for the plant is expected to begin in October of 2002 and be completed within 14 months, Norris Smith of Snyder Engineering said during the engineering and technology report. Approximately $85 million is expected to be spent in the construction process, and the plant is expected to operate at a cost of 30 cents per gallon.

Smith said the plant will be operated by approximately 48 full-time employees. He said the average annual salary will be $40,000. The annual payroll is estimated to be $2 million.

Fuel ethanol will be the main product produced at the plant. Industrial alcohol, dried distilled and wet grains, and compressed carbon dioxide will be produced as well.

Smith said a thermal oxidizer will be used to burn out the potentially toxic levels of emissions resulting from the production of dried grains. He said, "this plant will be designed around that technology."

Todd Sneller, director of the Nebraska Ethanol Board, said the benefits Ravenna residents will see from the plant will be numerous. He listed economic developments, additional tax revenue and improved services in the community as a few benefits.

"There is fierce competition for these plants around the country," Sneller said. "I'm not frankly aware of any negative impacts from these plants if they're properly constructed and properly designed."

Richard Baier, former economic developer for York, spoke about his experiences with the ethanol plant built there.

"The impact on the community," he said, "was enormous."

Baier said York's ethanol plant became a big player in the community and brought young families in who gave a lot back to the community. Nordic Biofuels president and chief executive officer John Baardson said his company will do the same for Ravenna.

"The main thing we bring the community is more money," Baardson said.

He said Nordic Biofuels is a company that becomes involved in the communities it builds in and is a strong community player. Nordic Biofuels has offices in Michigan, Oregon and two in Washington, and 12 power projects in the United States and Canada.

Pohlmann said talk began a little more than four weeks ago when the company contacted Tillery about the possibility of building near Ravenna. Pohlmann said at first, he didn't think it would be something that would happen. But now that it has, he said the plant could be "possibly one of the biggest economic jump-starts we've had all at one time."

"Overall," he said, "the economic impact is tremendous."

"We have been very pleased with the company's approach to this entire process," Tillery said, "and we feel confident that the Ravenna area is a good fit for the company's business strategy."

Baardson said the company will draw on corn produced in a 40 to 50-mile radius around Ravenna for its ethanol production. He said the tract of land Nordic Biofuels plans to purchase 1.9 miles out of the city limits is approximately 190 acres in size.

"If this doesn't excite you just a little bit," Pohlmann said as he wrapped up the meeting, "I suggest you see your doctor first thing in the morning."



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