By Tim Cox
An Indiana group has announced plans to build an ethanol production plant near Harrisville, a tiny rural community in Randolph County, but the project is not expected to affect the fate of a local ethanol proposal.
Cardinal Ethanol LLC, is seeking local investors and has scheduled 50 meetings in communities across Ohio and Indiana. Six of those investment meetings are in Mercer and Auglaize counties and area business owners have received invitations to the meetings.
Cardinal Etha-nol officials are proposing a 100-million-gallon plant on a 200-acres site near Harrisville that would employ 45 people and process 36 million bushels of corn annually. The proposed plant is estimated to be a $130 million investment.
The site is located just 35 miles from Celina, where a group of local farmers are planning their own ethanol venture. Mercer Energy Chairman Jim VanTilburg told The Daily Standard on Friday that the Indiana project will not negatively affect the proposed local project.
Mercer Energy's proposal to build a $100 million hydro-milling plant east of Celina is moving ahead full steam, VanTilburg said. Company officials plan to open a local office next week and are about to begin the Ohio EPA air quality permitting process that is expected to take six months or so. The Mercer Energy plant would produce 50 million gallons of ethanol annually and would also produce a high-fiber, high-protein livestock feed. The specialized hydro-milling process uses 15 percent less energy, consumes fewer chemicals and generates less pollution than traditional ethanol production techniques.
The Dayton engineering firm AMG Inc. is working with Mercer Energy officials on their project, which would be one of the first plants of its type in the United States.
Cardinal Ethanol recently selected the Harrisville site -- located near Winchester -- over a site near Muncie, Ind., in Delaware County. The availability of corn was one of the factors that tipped the scales in favor of the Randolph County site, various published reports said.
But a feasibility study paid for by Randolph County Commissioners relied on the availability of corn from a seven-county region, including Mercer and Darke counties in Ohio. The combined area produces an average of 76 million bushels of corn annually.
VanTilburg said the Mercer Energy project is based on getting corn mostly from north and northeast of Mercer County, so should not be affected by the Indiana project.
"We're still far enough away from them, I really don't think it's going to make a difference," VanTilburg said.
VanTilburg would not comment on the Cardinal Ethanol group soliciting local investment. According to Securities Exchange Commission filings, the Indiana company plans to seek as much as $82 million from private investors, which would be sold in $5,000 increments.
"We're in our fund-raising mode right now, but that's about all I can say," VanTilburg said.
The Cardinal Ethanol investment meetings kick-off July 24 in Winchester at the high school auditorium. The following night, the company is staging three meetings in Celina, Greenville and Piqua. The Celina meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Romer's Catering on West Bank Road.