Mercer County still one of possibilities
By TIMOTHY COX
Area officials remain hopeful that a group of Ohio farmers will
pick Mercer County as the site for a proposed corn processing
facility to produce ethanol and other corn byproducts. Similar
multi-million dollar investments in other communities across
the Midwest have revived depressed economies and provided well-paying
Ohio Corn Processors Inc. plans to decide within the next few
weeks where it will pursue its plans to build the wet-milling
facility. The president of the group of investors looking at
the possibility of siting a plant in the area confirmed to The
Daily Standard last week that Mercer County is one of three
locations investors still are considering. Darke and Preble
counties are believed to be the other sites being considered.
The investors plan to weigh the positive and negative aspects
of each site and pursue their plans at the site with the best
A wet-milling corn processing plant would produce ethanol —
a fuel that can be blended with gasoline — and an array
of other corn byproducts. Such a facility would initially create
as many as 80-100 full-time jobs and economic development officials
say spin-off industries could add another 300 jobs.
Mercer County and Celina city officials are working closely
together to try to put together the most attractive, most viable
plan for an ethanol plant.
“I’m excited about this. This would be very good
for the whole area,” Celina Mayor Sharon LaRue said. “The
city is working hand-in-hand with the county on this. The city
is willing to look at anything that needs to be done.”
An ethanol plant likely would have huge utility demands, especially
for water and electricity. LaRue said the city would be willing
to explore the possibility of extending utilities to the site.
Building and engineering costs for a wet-milling corn processing
plant likely would top $200 million. By comparison, the Celina
Aluminum Precision Technology (CAPT) piston plant in Celina
was a $40 million investment when it opened, Mercer County Community
Development Director Larry Stelzer said.
In Macon County, Mo., the state’s first ethanol plant
has given the community a vital industry that’s residual
effects can be seen throughout the community.
“This is primarily a farming community and the plant has
been beneficial for everyone here,” said Frank Withrow,
director of the Macon County Economic Development Corp.
The dry-mill plant in Macon County — different than the
wet-mill facility proposed for West Central Ohio — produces
15 million gallons of ethanol and 85 million pounds of distiller’s
grain annually, and now has begun selling carbon dioxide that
is produced as a waste product in the ethanol process. The plant
was Missouri’s first venture into ethanol.
“I know the farmers, not just here but in all the surrounding
counties, are getting more for their grain,” Withrow said.
“And there is the direct employment and it all seems to
trickle down to everything that happens here.”
The Macon County plant employs about 40 people in jobs that
Withrow said pay above-average wages. Macon County is about
60 miles north of Columbia in North Central Missouri.
The plant plays a vital role in the community and generally
has been a good neighbor, Withrow said. For example, plant owners
and Macon city officials struck a deal to partner together to
build a natural gas-fired 10-megawatt electricity generator
at the plant. The entities split the cost of the gas, with the
plant using the steam and heat for its industrial processes
and the city getting the electricity.
Michigan’s first ethanol plant was welcomed with open
arms by the community of Caro in Tuscola County, located about
30 miles east of Saginaw in the eastern part of the state.
“The main feature is that it has created a strong corn
market here and in surrounding counties,” said Michael
Hoagland, Tuscola County administrator. “There also are
some good jobs; they employ chemists and engineers and other
Some communities have experienced problems due to ethanol facilities,
mostly due to air pollution and odors coming from the plant.
But Ohio can learn from the mistakes made in other places, and
the Ohio EPA’s permitting process for ethanol facilities
ensures their emissions will meet air quality standards, local
Hoagland said the odor issue causes controversy in nearly every
town that looks at bringing in an ethanol plant. He also said
those fears are not justified.
“I live two miles from the plant and there really is no
smell. Sometimes, it faintly smells like toast for a while,”
Hoagland said. “It was just a tremendous fear when this
first was proposed ... but it just has not been the case.”
Ethanol is a small part of a larger trend toward “value
added” agriculture. The term essentially refers to ways
farmers can improve the value of their crops.
Value-added agriculture converts agricultural outputs into products
of greater value. The business philosophy seeks to increase
the economic value of an agricultural commodity through changes
in genetics, processing or diversification. The term also is
used to describe the improvement in consumer appeal of an agricultural
Value-added agriculture could be a specialty crop, fish farming
or intensive processing like an ethanol plant.
“Since farmers will be unable to survive tomorrow by simply
producing commodity corn and soybeans, the only choice is to
add value to that crop; and to ensure success, it may take a
whole community of farmers who have done their homework with
a strategic business plan,” said Stu Ellis in an August
2003 article for the University of Illinois Extension office.