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Posted on  

November 29, 2002

Central City celebrates new ethanol plant with town meeting

By Mike Bockoven

CENTRAL CITY -- For Fagen Chief Executive Officer Ron Fagen, Central City was the first choice for his company to build a $60 million new ethanol plant for two reasons.

"The economics was number two," Fagen said Wednesday at a city meeting in Central City. "Number one was the local people who really really wanted us. Small communities like this, there isn't a whole lot of industry. These small towns are evaporating and they need industry, and the people of Central City showed us they wanted us."

Central City was chosen over Beatrice and Grand Island Wednesday as the spot for the new ethanol plant, and community leaders, county board members, economic development leaders and community members showed up at the Central City city hall to celebrate the news.

Around 300 people showed up to hear Fagen and Cliff Mesner, the city's economic development director, talk about why Central City was chosen, and what it will mean to the community.

"We didn't spend a lot of time chasing ghosts," Mesner said. "We did what we had to do. Most of all, I want to thank the community I've come to love so much. I think we really pulled together and as a community, we made this happen."

Indications from Tim Morris, Fagen project coordinator, was that construction for the 40-million-gallon dry mill ethanol plant would begin in about a month, depending on several factors.

"We want to get started as quickly as we can," he said. "We'll be starting work in a month or so if we can make that happen."

Mesner said with the loss of the Atlantic Homes in September and the loss of around 300 jobs in the community, the news from Fagen Inc. is especially sweet. While the plant will only create 30 to 35 new jobs, he said more may initially be created to actually get the plant up and built.

"Some of them will probably get a job there, and a lot of them will during the construction phase," Mesner said. "It's a step in the right direction."

Mesner also said the community support was key to Fagen's decision, as well as city sales tax dollars, which will be used in an incentive package.

"People is something I knew we had," he said. "Community support has been a great thing and we can't thank everyone enough."

Jerry Heidelk, the president of a feed company in Palmer, said from a business view point, it didn't really matter to him if Grand Island or Central City ended up as the site for the ethanol plant. For him, it's an advantage for feedlots in the area.

"It will be great for your packing plant in Grand Island, too," he said. "I think they got this because Cliff Mesner was very well-prepared and knew someone would show up at the eleventh hour. It's good to see these folks get something. They've had some hard times."

Fagen also mentioned that the site was not only something that will be built in Central City, but will stay in Central City for years to come.

"It's great for the economy and it's something that can't be packed up and moved to Mexico," he said. "It will be here for a long, long time."



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