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Local county's fields sprout more than corn

LAC QUI PARLE COUNTY -- There are competing plans in Lac qui Parle County to build two ethanol plants. One is already proposed as a 50-million-gallon-per-year plant which would require about 17 million bushels of corn annually. The county produce...

LAC QUI PARLE COUNTY -- There are competing plans in Lac qui Parle County to build two ethanol plants.

One is already proposed as a 50-million-gallon-per-year plant which would require about 17 million bushels of corn annually.

The county produces more than 21 million bushels of corn a year, according to Minnesota Department of Agriculture statistics.

Glacial Lakes Energy, LLC. of Watertown, S.D., expects to have a feasibility study completed for its project in two to three weeks. It is proposing to build a 50-million-gallons-per-year plant in Madison, a community of 1,768 people. It refers to the project as Madison Energy, LLC.

City officials recently provided the company with an option on city-owned land for the plant. The community is hoping to see construction get underway in 2007, according to Mayor Greg Thole.

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"As far as the city goes, we're pretty excited about it,'' Thole said. The community hopes the plant would create 30 to 35 good-paying jobs. It also believes the new market an ethanol plant would create for corn, and the value added earnings it could bring local investors, will benefit the area economy.

Those are the sentiments held 13 miles away in Dawson.

Dawson City Council members acted just this week to provide an option on city-owned land to Lac qui Parle Ethanol, LLC. to build an ethanol plant.

Lac qui Parle Energy is a newly-formed company, consisting of a of 12 to 14 members working to launch its project, according to one of its founders, Jim Bakken, president of the MinnWest Bank in Dawson.

Bakken said the group is at the early stage of its work. They have obtained a verbal commitment from a construction company to build a plant for the company starting in July 2007.

Bakken said the group is not far enough along to commit to a specific site.

The group's original organizers include representatives from six independent farmer elevators in the county. Bakken declined to identify them.

Both the Dawson and Madison sites would offer access to the rail, sewer and water connections needed by ethanol plants. Both cities are also examining the possibility of offering JOBZ tax benefits.

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All of this started as a proposal to build one ethanol plant in the county. Elevator operators from throughout the county joined to promote the idea.

A group was at work on the project, but the project was split when the City of Madison announced its plans to work with Glacial Lakes Energy.

Thole said that a group of local farmers approached the city with the idea of working with Glacial Lakes Energy. The company owns and operates a 50-million-gallon-per-year plant near Watertown, S.D., which it opened in August, 2002. The company is in the process of expanding the plant to 100 million gallons per year.

It also owns more than a 20 percent interest in the Granite Falls Energy plant, a 50-million-gallon-per-year plant which opened last year.

Glacial Lakes Energy is constructing a 50-million-gallons-per-year plant near Redfield, S.D. It has also announced its intentions to build a 100-million-gallon-per-year plant near Aberdeen, S.D. It is working with Missouri Valley Renewable Energy to build what would be its sixth plant in the Vermillion and Yankton, S.D. area.

Thole said the city has taken a hard look at Glacial Lake's track record and feels the company would prove itself a good neighbor. He also noted that the project poses no risk to the city. Glacial Lakes will conduct its own drive to raise equity for the project by selling shares.

If the feasibility study results are positive, Thole said the project could be open to investment later this year.

Lac qui Parle Energy has not yet decided whether it will develop a plant on its own or in partnership with an ethanol company. Bakken said both options are being explored. The group is hoping that it will be far enough along to begin its own equity campaign later this year.

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