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Bushmills represents economic cooperation

WILLMAR -- The Bushmills Ethanol plant shows what can happen when government entities cooperate.

"The Bushmills project is a wonderful example of what like-minded citizens can do with determination and optimism," said Steve Renquist, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission,

When Bushmills Ethanol was looking to build a plant, they were eyeing locations in Kandiyohi and Meeker counties. The financial package that was put together by the EDC, as well as tax breaks offered under the state's Job Opportunity Building Zone program and access to rail lines and other utilities, helped sway the decision to the Atwater site in Kandiyohi County.

As part of the EDC package, Kandiyohi County provided a $6.1 million bond to Bushmills. The loan is for 16 years.

"It was good to have the opportunity to do a significant project in rural Kandiyohi County as an example of how the city (of Willmar) and county work together," Renquist said.

He said he "never heard a word of objection" from Willmar residents or city elected officials about providing the financial support to a project outside the city limits.

Willmar provides 40 percent of the county's tax base, he said. The project shows the city and county "working together to make important things happen," he said.

He said cooperation from Gennessee Township, where the plant is located, and the city of Atwater, was also crucial to the success of the project.

"I'm just so pleased for them (Bushmills), and for us. This is just a very positive statement about this county and the people in it."

He said there will be "payoffs" to the county in many ways. He said the addition of 32 jobs is very important, as well as the increased price of corn. He said with about 20 million bushels of corn raised in Kandiyohi County, and a nickel per bushel increase in price offered by Bushmills, "there's a million dollars right there." Renquist said those additional dollars will be returned many times to the community.

Renquist said the EDC hopes that Bushmills will be a "springboard" for other value-added projects in the county, including other renewable energy projects

"We couldn't be more pleased that it went from being an idea to a reality," he said.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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