plans greeted with enthusiasm
By Dennis Pelham
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
"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
"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
"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.