By Tim Cox
A feasibility study to determine the best location to build an ethanol plant is nearing completion, and Mercer County officials are convinced their proposed site will be chosen for development.
Lima-based Greater Ohio Ethanol is studying six communities in West Central and Southwest Ohio to determine where its facilities will be built. The company already has broken ground on a plant in Lima and plans to build another in Seneca County.
Greater Ohio Ethanol threw Mercer County into its site selection process in August after plans by a local investment group to build a massive ethanol facility fell through.
Mercer County officials have targeted an 80-acre swath of farmland near state Route 29 east of Celina as a prime location for the plant. The site has easy access to the highway, the nearby R.J. Corman railroad line and local governments have agreed to work with the developers on utilities issues.
"I'm still saying it -- and I think they know -- that we have the best site," said Mercer County Community Development Director Larry Stelzer. "This feasibility study is going to prove it." County commissioners this week reaffirmed their support for an ethanol project. Commissioners assured Stelzer that planned support for the failed ethanol project would be offered again if Greater Ohio Ethanol officials choose Mercer County.
A letter of support signed by county, city, township and school district officials has been sent to the ethanol developer.
Specifically, local officials have agreed to pursue grant assistance for necessary infrastructure improvements and to provide a plant with water and sewer service. Officials also agreed to consider a tax abatement for the project.
The incentives are the same as for any large economic development project, Commissioner Jerry Laffin said.
Greater Ohio Ethanol officials are proposing a series of 60-million-gallon capacity dry-milling facilities that produce ethanol and high-protein feed that can be used in the food industry. Ethanol -- pure corn alcohol -- also can be blended with gasoline to reduce the amount of oil used to make fuel.