By William Kincaid
A site for Mercer Energy's proposed $110 million ethanol plant was announced during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Officials are finalizing the purchase with the current property owners of the site at the southwest corner of the intersection of state Route 29 and Harris Road, close to the Mercer-Auglaize County line.
"We have options on the ground," Mercer Energy Chairman Jim VanTilburg told The Daily Standard on Thursday. "It will be purchased relatively soon during the finalized finance phase. The deal is made; it's just a matter of executing the options."
VanTilburg would not say what those options were.
The site, according to company officials, contains two parcels of land -- or 76 acres total -- which is split equally between the Michael Hoelscher family and Clark and Judy Springer. If all goes as planned, ethanol production could begin sometime in 2008, according to VanTilburg. He expects it to take 12-18 months for the financing, engineering and permitting process and an additional 14-18 months for the construction and completion of the plant.
Organizers are hoping the plant would produce 50 million gallons of corn alcohol that can be blended with fuel and use 18 million bushels of corn annually. The proposed facility would employ approximately 35 people on site with an estimated 100 or more jobs created elsewhere in the community.
VanTilburg also announced that Mercer Energy has signed a letter of intent with engineering firm AMG, Inc., Dayton, to assist in assembling a team to design and build the plant.
"He finally twisted my arm," Alberto G Menendez, founder and president of AMG, said about VanTilburg and his decision to work with Mercer Energy.
AMG's engineering will be based on using a hydro milling process that in addition to ethanol also will be capable of producing applicable protein products such as the trade-marked NutraFiber, Germ, ProBan, Energia, Glutenol and Glutenol XP. The by-products can be used as livestock feed or sold to manufacturers, who convert them into food products.
"This will give us a little more fiber," Menendez said, who was born in Mexico City and added that he obtained plenty of fiber from tortilla shells. "In the U.S., we eat too much protein and not enough fiber."
According to a press release, the hydro milling process would consume approximately 15 percent less fossil fuel, consume less chemicals and generate less pollution than a conventional whole kernel dry grain facility.
Mercer County Commissioner Bob Nuding said it has been "a long, arduous process" in ensuring the development of an ethanol plant in Mercer County. But he essentially believes it is a great fit and a win-win situation for the county.
According to information from Mercer Energy, a 50-million gallon per year ethanol facility would add $60 million each year to the local economy (farmers, hotels, gas stations, restaurants, retailers), generate $1.5 million in local and state taxes each year and increase the local corn basis by 5-10 cents for each bushel.
Five other farmers are part of the group, including Ryan Schwieterman, Luke VanTilburg, Aaron Miesse, Kyle VanTilburg and Paul Broering. As a group, the men have years of experience not only in farming but also finance and investment, trucking, excavation and livestock, they said.