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Posted on  

July 10, 2002

Ethanol plant presentation scheduled


The Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. will make a presentation on Monday to Dakota Renewable Fuels on locating an ethanol plant at Jamestown, said Kevin Cooper, JSDC chief executive officer.
Jamestown, Valley City, Oakes and Wahpeton are on a short list for consideration for locating the plant.

Dakota Renewable Fuels' most pressing concern is an adequate water supply should the company opt to locate here at the ag and food processing park near Cavendish Farms, Cooper said at the JSDC's board meeting Monday.

"They want to know the cost to the business to develop an adequate amount of raw water to the food processing park," Cooper said.

The company would prefer to provide for its own water needs, using its own well and treatment system. It doesn't need water treated to the standards required for residential use.

However, that could be a problem, Cooper said. Jamestown has ordinances regarding private wells and treatment that would hinder Dakota Renewable Fuels in developing a private water system.

"We intend to give them the option for city water," he said.

However, that could pose a problem at this point in time. The water treatment plant currently runs from 6.5 million to 7 million gallons a day, which is the capacity of the city's wells. The plant itself was designed to provide 12 million gallons a day, so the city could drill another well and provide the needed water. And if the new well was drilled at the ag processing park, enough water could be provided to the ethanol plant, Cavendish Farms and any other ag processing business wanting to locate there.

The ethanol plant's need for water has spurred interest in a serious study of the three aquifers in the area to find out how much water is actually available. The city has wells in the Jamestown aquifer, the food and ag processing park sits on Midway aquifer and the Spiritwood aquifer runs under Cargill Malt. No studies have been done by the State Water Commission to find out the quantity or quality of the aquifers' water.

"I would think the city and jobs development would both need information on all three aquifers for economic development purposes," said Jeff Fuchs, city administrator.

Cooper agreed.

"We know we don't have a good handle on Midway aquifer, which runs under the food park," he said. "Whether we have an ethanol plant out there or not, this is necessary."

Besides the water issue, Dakota Renewable Fuels also wants to know about the cost of rail service for its product, Cooper said. Company officials believe their biggest market will be California. Utilities is another concern Cooper will address in his presentation, he said.

Finally, the company wants to know about the availability of corn within a 40-mile radius. The ethanol plant would require 11 million to 12 million bushels a year. Cooper said he didn't feel a 40-mile radius was an important issue for corn growers.

"Apparently the consultant is unaware that farmers in this state are willing to truck corn longer distances than 40 miles," he said. "But these are the issues we'll be trying to address in the presentation."

The plant will employ about 35 people, Cooper said. There are other considerations that make the ethanol plant an important contribution to the area economy.

"There are a lot of economic impacts here, not just jobs, although they are very good paying jobs," he said.

He said farmers who grow corn for the plant can expect to see an increase in the price per bushel that would range from 15 to 30 cents. Ag-related businesses would also benefit. The $36 million construction project would benefit a number of area businesses, along with the trucking industry.

A local contingent of the Progressive Coalition, calling themselves the Stutsman Progressives, were at the meeting as a community watchdog organization. George Barnes told board members, "We're concerned about the economy and the future of our community.

"Economic development means wages too and my question is: What are we getting for our money?"

The Stutsman Progressives want higher wages and more diversity on the JSDC board. Barnes argued that $7.50 an hour plus benefits is not a good wage.

Board members didn't dispute Barnes' assertions, however, Cooper said Dakota Fresh, for example, gave employees the option of $7.50 an hour with benefits or $9 without benefits.

"You should also understand that Dakota Fresh is a start-up company and the more the company succeeds, the more the employees will benefit," he said.

Board President Alex Schweitzer also said he felt the board was selective in which companies the JSDC would support.

"There are companies whose wages are too low that we've refused even to look at," he said.

Barnes said the Stutsman Progressives were also concerned about accountability and the number of economic development failures.

"The first thing people have to understand is economic development is a risk business. We are going to have failures," Cooper said. "But we have a good track record here. Out of 48 projects, 40 are successful."



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