The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 5, 2009

Ethanol plant ramps up

Janesville plant started operations Nov. 1

JANESVILLE — It’s what residents in the Janesville area have been waiting to see — semi trucks filled with farmers’ corn lined up at the ethanol plant just east of town.

“It’s a big plus for the community,” said Mayor Alvin Grams. “The farmers are all happy — they’re getting a premium price for their corn. For the people working there it’s a very positive thing.”

The only complaint he’s heard from farmers is that the plant can’t take its full capacity of corn as it works up to full production.

Don Gales, the new CEO of the plant, said operations have been smooth since startup began Nov. 1.

“It’s been fantastic. With any startup, everything isn’t perfect, but it’s gone very well.”

The new plant, which can produce 120 million gallons of ethanol annually, has been a sore spot for Waseca County for more than a year.

VeraSun bought the property, before it was completed, in 2007 when it acquired U.S. BioEnergy Corp. But VeraSun declared bankruptcy in November 2008. AgStar and other lenders then purchased the idled plant for $55 million and this summer sold it for an undisclosed amount to Guardian Energy, a consortium of Midwest ethanol plants.

Now, the plant employs 50 people, and will add a few more, making it Janesville’s biggest employer other than the school district. It will also become one of the biggest property taxpayers in the county.

Guardian, which will grind more than 100,000 bushels a day, or 40 million bushels a year, had to get contracts with area farmers for corn.

“We’ve got a decent amount of corn to arrive. We’ll contract out through next year’s new crop,” Gales said.

On most weekdays, trucks from an 80-mile radius have been lining up as the plant dumps about 250 semis daily.

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