By Tim Cox
Ohio Corn Processors Inc. needs $700,000 in local investment to help make its $600 million dream of building a wet-milling ethanol plant near Celina come true.
The group of 13 West Central Ohio farmers already have spent hundreds of thousands of their own money and countless hours researching and planning the project for the past two years. They are now hoping the community will embrace the project that would create about 100 full-time jobs.
"We need some community support," said Kent Thompson, the Darke County farmer who heads up the ethanol group. "We believe this would be quite an economic advantage to Mercer County."
An informational meeting is set for 1 p.m. Thursday at the Central Services Building in Celina where prospective investors can hear details about the project. Individuals and businesses are welcome to invest, with a $10,000 minimum buy-in set.
"A lot of people have asked me whether they could invest in the project. This is now their opportunity," said Jim VanTilburg of Celina. Members of the group said they only have about 30 days to raise the money. That local investment likely would lead to other multi-million dollar commitments from other large investors to help raise the more than half-billion dollars necessary to construct the plant. The local money also could help secure state grant funding to assist the project, Mercer County Community Development Director Larry Stelzer said.
The plant would be built on about 110 acres east of Celina.
The wet-milling facility would use about 1,250 acres of corn daily to produce ethanol, which can be blended with gasoline, and other corn byproducts, including livestock feed and products used by the food industry.
The plant also would spur a spin-off effect, pumping millions of dollars into the local railroad and trucking industries, raising crop prices and lowering livestock feed costs for farmers and creating other jobs in businesses that support the ethanol plant.
"It will be the largest new plant ever built," VanTilburg said.
Stelzer said the project would be the single largest economic development boon the area has ever seen. The estimated $600 million investment is about 15 times greater than the original $40 million spent to build the Celina Aluminum Precision Technology plant east of town.
If the project does not come to fruition, those who invested in the project would get their money back, Stelzer said.
Local investment will not be limited to $700,000 but that is the minimum amount necessary to move forward with the project.