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Posted on  

April 8, 2003

'Cautiously optimistic'... WWREC officials feel they are close to attaining funds to keep ethanol plant alive

By Jim Kleinhans, Editor

Paul Harrison is "cautiously optimistic" that the farmer-owned cooperative seeking to build an ethanol plant in Dunn County will reach its $24 million equity drive goal.

"We have $10.935 million raised," Harrison said. "We're not quite where we were hoping to be, but we're close."

Western Wisconsin Renewable Energy Co-Op, of which Harrison is president, had a March 31 deadline for the equity drive.

"We'll extend the drive to April 25 to allow time for producers to review the information. Once we reach $12 million, we can go forward, seeking out LLC dollars to finish the project," Harrison stressed.

When the cooperative gets to $12 million, officials will approach non-farm investors for additional funding to get to the ultimate goal of $24 million.

"If we get $12 million from farmers," Harrison said, "that will ensure a majority ownership in the plant."

"When we conducted our meetings with farmers, there's been a contingent of non-farmers following us around who want to become involved," Harrison said.

Co-op members held about 75 meetings around west-central Wisconsin and distributed about 1,200 packs of information.

Thus far, 410 farmers have invested in the ethanol plant project.

The average investment has been over $26,000 per member, which Harrison described as "oustanding."

"We just didn't get enough members," the WWREC president said.

"Obviously, there are a number of people who heard the message and didn't want to get involved," Harrison said. "We're going to get back to them to find out why."

"We also know there are people out there who didn't hear about the equity drive in time to invest by the March 31 deadline," Harrison noted.

"I still think it's doable," Harrison said.

"We raised more than $10 million in less than two months and this is a relatively new concept to this part of Wisconsin," he said.

"If you think about the project in these terms, we did pretty well," he said.

Harrison also noted that dairy farmers are feeling a crunch due to low milk prices, so that may have prevented some from investing.

"On the other hand, farmers have been dealing with risks and low commodity prices for a long time," he said.

"Some farmers bought seed stock," Harrison said, "and we owe it to them to make every effort to reach $12 million."

That's why the equity drive has been extended to April 25.

WWREC intends to build a 40 million gallons per year dry-mill fuel grade ethanol plant in Dunn County.

The preferred site is on Highway 170 between Wheeler and Boyceville, although a site on the west side of Colfax has also been identified.

WWREC has hired Fagen, Inc., of Granite Falls, Minn., to design and built the ethanol plant using ICM process technology for $45,300,000.

Total cost of the project is $57 million, including land purchase and other site-specific activities.


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