SEMO mill begins production

Thursday, May 3, 2007
The first load of 900 bushels of corn arrived at SEMO Milling Wednesday. The corn will be used for testing at the facility. (Fred Lynch)

After months of anticipation, SEMO Milling LLC received its first loads of corn Tuesday, marking the beginnings of the plant's production process.

When the company announced its intention to start operations at the Southeast Missouri Port Authority in December 2005, SEMO Milling representatives said in a news release that operations would be underway in six months. However, that expectation was "extremely unreasonable," said company president and CEO Bob Smallwood, due to the time needed for permitting and "building a facility from scratch." The project also increased in scope during the planning phases to add on a pilot mill to convert corn for use in ethanol production.

In the end the process took 15 months, right in the 14 to 16 month time frame Smallwood said is expected for such projects.

Five truckloads of corn were delivered to SEMO Milling Tuesday with about 50,000 pounds of corn each. The initial load will be used to fine-tune the facility's machinery, Smallwood said, and will probably produce hominy.

SEMO Milling has the capacity to produce 620 tons of corn product per day. Most of that product will be used for food, from snacks to cereal and beer brewing. The facility is the first to produce a food-grade product at the SEMO Port.

Smallwood said a joint-venture ethanol plant with Kansas-based Ethanex Energy has been nixed, but SEMO Milling has a pilot mill on site that converts corn into a starch stream that is used in the production of ethanol. The mill uses proprietary technology, Smallwood said, and allows for more efficient production of the corn-based fuel additive.

The company will now seek to build an ethanol plant on the site, possibly on its own, an idea Smallwood said SEMO Milling is "vigorously pursuing."

"Permitting is well underway, as is some site preparation," Smallwood said.

At full capacity the plant will employ 60 people. About half that number are currently employed at the plant, Smallwood said.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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