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Great Lakes Article:

Ethanol plans greeted with enthusiasm
By Dennis Pelham
Lenawee Connection
11/08/03


ADRIAN -- More than 60 farmers, business leaders and government officials gathered Friday in the Lenawee County Courthouse to applaud announcement of plans to build a $60 million to $70 million ethanol plant.

Selection of a specific site is still months away but a decision has been made to go ahead with financing and building an ethanol plant next year in Southeast Michigan, said Ray Griffin of Riga, board president of newly formed Great Lakes Ethanol LLC.

The plant will bring new jobs and boost the local economy, Griffin said, by processing as much as 17.9 million bushels of corn a year into 50 million gallons of ethanol fuel.

"It's a good, renewable fuel source and there's a lot of benefit to it," Griffin commented.

"I see a lot of smiling faces. Some of you should be grinning even more than you are. This is very, very exciting," remarked Jody Pollok, executive director of the Michigan Corn Growers Association.

The GLE plant would become only the second ethanol facility in Michigan, a state with a potential market for 500 million gallons a year of the pure alcohol fuel, she said.

"Congratulations. It's a win-win for this community and state of Michigan," said state Rep. Gene DeRossett, R-Manchester, pledging to work in the Legislature to help make the project possible.

"What we have to do is develop value-added products if you want to preserve agricultural land," DeRossett said.

"It's going to employ folks. It's going to be good for Michigan," said state Rep. Bruce Caswell, R-North Adams, adding he will work hard to have the plant built in his district of Hillsdale and Branch counties.

"We hope it's right here in Lenawee County," said state Rep. Doug Spade, D-Adrian. Regardless of the exact location, such a plant will help the region's agricultural economy, he said.

"We need to do everything we can in Michigan right now to preserve agriculture," Spade said.

The ethanol plant project grew out of a committee set up two years ago by the Lenawee County Commission to work on agricultural business development and land preservation.

A subcommittee of which Griffin is chairman began serious work on an ethanol plant after members attended a renewable fuels conference in Toledo last December, then contacted the MCGA in January.

Pollok said she was excited when the Lenawee County group contacted her. There have been rumors from other areas of interest in building an ethanol plant, she said, but this is the only project to develop since the state's first plant was built last year in Caro, about 25 miles east of Saginaw and Bay City in the Thumb area.

"I've not worked with a group that is so innovative and so committed," she said. The Lenawee County committee has met at least once every week since March to keep the project moving.

"They've worked through everything. It's very impressive what they have done," she said.

Potential plant locations have been identified but it is too early in the process to make a selection, said committee member and county commissioner John Tuckerman of Blissfield. Access to natural gas and adequate electricity are part of the equation as well as highways, railroads and water supplies, Tuckerman said. Negotiations with utility companies and land owners, he said, will resolve the location issue.

Committee member Ken Lake of Michigan Agricultural Commodities in Blissfield said he expects state approval this month to begin selling stock in the GLE enterprise. The group hopes to raise 50 percent of the start-up cost through stock sales, he said. Area farmers are expected to join in the financing as well as outside investors, Lake said.

"The ethanol plants that are out there today are very financially sound," Griffin said. Local corn growers should look at the plant "as an investment in their own farm," he commented.

GLE has hired a three-member team for the design and construction of the plant.

"I think the only risk is not getting it done," said Larry Johnson of Delta-T Corp. of Williamsburg, Va.

In his 20 years experience in the ethanol business, Johnson said, "I have never been more excited or optimistic about our industry than I am right now."

"We're very much committed to the local economy," said Al Knapp of the Ann Arbor office of TIC-The Industrial Company.

"We've got farmers going out of business. We've got farmland sitting idle," Knapp said, and businesses that support farmers are suffering. An ethanol plant in Southeast Michigan will help revive the local agriculture industry, he said.

The third company involved in the plant design and construction is T.E. Ibberson of Hopkins, Minn.

Plans call for building the plant next year and starting ethanol production in 2005.

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