Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013
Benton Plant Almost Ready to Produce Ethanol and Jobs
BENTON -- A Franklin County ethanol plant that sat idle for three years is now just weeks away from reopening. Leaders say it's just a small step to help the area's struggling economy.
The plant was expected to open at the end of September, but a construction delay pushed everything back. Now, the company is just a few weeks away from creating ethanol and jobs.
Crews are putting the final touches on the Benton ethanol plant. Installation of a custom conveyer took longer than expected and delayed the plant's start.
"Friday it will all be installed and in," said Plant Manager Steve Vardell.
Vardell insists, it's not the type of project that will turn on at the flip of a switch. There's a chemical, mechanical, and training process involved that he's hoping will come together by the middle of November, with production following roughly a month later.
The manufacturing of corn products and ethanol will also bring nearly 20 jobs, with a particular focus on training veterans and putting them back to work.
"Teach people how to make ethanol, plus teach people maintenance, welding, electricity, PLCs, electronics, it's all here," said Verdell.
Franklin County Economic Development Executive Director William Dill believes opening the plant is just a small piece of the job puzzle. August numbers show Franklin County had the second highest unemployment rate just over 12 percent. The community is still feeling the impact of the BRP boat plant closure.
"You get in trouble when you have a great big piece fail, so you know, every little thing we can do, whether it's even two or three jobs, it's worthwhile," explained Dill.
At the ethanol plant, Vardell says the economic impact all starts here with the purchase of local grain. He says a lot of what is produced here will stay in the region, bringing a much needed boost.
"With corn sales local, with alcohol sales, with feed sales and everything else, that money stays in this community 7, 8 times before it leaves," he said.
And it's not the only growth Dill sees in the county's future. He says more windows of opportunity are expected to open in the coming months.
"There's some projects on the books that will generate a lot more than 2-3 jobs and we're waiting for those to finally get through the grinding process," said Dill.
The seven million gallon plant is expected to generate about $12 million in revenue annually.
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