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Grinnell, Tama Targeted for New Ethanol Plants

Dave DeWitte

The Gazette

April 1, 2006

 [Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

    Grinnell and Tama could soon join the ethanol plant building boom in Iowa.

    The Eastern Iowa cities are being considered for ethanol plants that would bring a total of $215 million in new investment to Eastern Iowa.

    Alpha Holdings Inc. of Reno, Nev., has met with Tama city officials about putting an $85 million ethanol plant on a 40-acre site near the Tama Livestock Auction on the east side of the city. The plant would have an initial capacity of 50 million gallons per year of ethanol and employ 35.

    Big River Resources of Burlington has identified a potential site south of Grinnell for a $130 million ethanol plant. The plant would produce 100 million gallons of ethanol per year and employ about 45.

    Neither company has yet committed to build.

    Tama expects to find out in April whether the project will be built, according to Dan Zimmerman, a Tama City Council member.

    ‘‘Everybody is excited, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed,’’ Zimmerman said.

    Tama County Economic Development, the Tama Revitalization Committee and city leaders met recently with the company in an effort to nail down the project.

    BBI International, a Colorado-based consultant on the project, referred questions about the project to Alpha CEO Christopher Miller, who was not available for comment.

    Grinnell City Manager Russ Behrens said the project is being considered for a site south of Interstate 80 and east of Highway 146. He said the project is nearly a mile south of the city limits, but the developers appear open to annexation to the city in order to receive city water, sewer and fire protection.

    Since news of the project became public, Behrens said the city has received contact from several other interested ethanol developers. He said the city remains committed to working with Big River Resources.

    Big River will welcome qualified local investors. Local investment is important, Behrens said, because it will keep more of the profits from the plant in the community.

    Ethanol plants are attractive to farmers because they provide a local market for corn that reduces shipping costs and can elevate grain prices modestly.

    Construction of Big River Resources’ plant could take two years, Behrens said, because of the backlog of orders for new ethanol plant equipment.