Cape to get $58 million ethanol plant

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Industrial revenue bonds will fuel the construction of a $58 million ethanol plant in Cape Girardeau's Nash Road industrial park and could lead to the building of a companion 20-megawatt power plant that would generate electricity from the city's garbage.

The Cape Girardeau County Industrial Development Authority approved the issuance of up to $250 million in tax-free revenue bonds at its board meeting Nov. 12.

The bonds would be purchased by investors and retired by Renewable Power of Marshall, Mo., which plans to build and run both the ethanol plant -- which would produce fuel alcohol from corn -- and the power plant.

"There is absolutely no obligation to the county, to the taxpayers. It is strictly between the company and the people who buy the bonds," said Jerry Lorberg, who chairs the IDA board.

IDA approval allows investors to avoid paying state and federal income taxes on their investment, making the buying of bonds for such projects more attractive, Lorberg said Monday.

"You've got to pinch yourself. This is almost too good to be true," he said of the industrial project.

Lorberg is one of seven members on the IDA board. The board is appointed by the county commission and typically holds meetings about four times a year, including a state-required annual meeting. The other meetings are held as business comes up.

Has environmental permits

The company already has secured all the environmental permits needed for the ethanol plant, but has yet to secure the permits and complete planning for the power plant, said Phil Danforth, general manager for Renewable Power.

He said the energy plant would be designed to power the ethanol plant and could boost ethanol production. The ethanol plant also would be built to run, if necessary, on power from AmerenUE.

Construction of the ethanol plant could begin next spring in a 32-acre soybean field south of Nash Road near the Spartech plastics plant and be in operation by spring of 2005, Danforth said. The plant would produce 40 million gallons of ethanol annually and use an estimated 15 million bushels of corn a year.

It would be the first such plant in Southeast Missouri, said Cape Girardeau County industrial recruiter Mitch Robinson, who has been working for more than a year to land the plant.

Building the plant would generate 1,000 to 1,500 temporary construction jobs. "That alone will give a boost to the economy in Cape Girardeau," Danforth said. The ethanol plant would create 35 to 40 permanent jobs.

The proposed "bio-mass energy" plant would employ about 120 people, Danforth said. It would be built on adjacent ground in the industrial park.

Cheaper by barge

Danforth's company plans to build a similar ethanol plant and companion power plant in Carbondale, Ill. He said his company wants to build an ethanol plant in Cape Girardeau because of its proximity to the slackwater port on the Mississippi River near Scott City.

"We will have the ability to export ethanol on barges at a cheaper rate than we can get on either truck or rail," he said.

The company broke ground on Sept. 30 for an ethanol plant in Marshall that is expected to be completed by January 2005.

Robinson said Cape Girardeau County is seeking a $350,000 community development block grant from the state of Missouri to construct a street and extend water and sewer lines to serve the proposed ethanol plant near the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

The infrastructure improvements also could serve the power plant, Robinson said.

The United States has 75 operating ethanol plants, including two in Missouri. Fourteen, including Renewable Power's plant at Marshall, currently are under construction nationwide, Danforth said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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