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Wisconsin Rapids to welcome new ethanol plant

Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. - Mayor Mary Jo Carson is thrilled about the prospect of an ethanol plant coming to her city.

Located in the geographic center of the state, Wisconsin Rapids has experienced a recent erosion of its job market and tax base, but this new project could be the auspicious development Carson has been looking for.

If approved, the proposed 40 to 60 million gallon annual production facility from Third Coast Biofuels, LLC will be situated on 40 acres in the city's east side commerce park adjacent to a Canadian National Railway spur and could supply 50 new jobs, several opportunities for local synergy, and added tax revenue.

"It will bring us a capital investment that is spectacular," Carson said. The investment is estimated between $70 and $100 million. "We're just thanking our lucky stars that this came to our doorstep."

The city's planning and industrial development committees have already registered their initial support for the idea and discussions are now underway to finalize the terms of the plan with respect to land use, facility details, and obtaining permits.
"We are thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved in this process," Carson said. "The goal is to complete this option and get it back to the finance committee."

Ron Kuehn, a Third Coast representative, explained at an informational city meeting this week that in the best-case scenario, the plant could be built by the spring of 2008.

The hardest part of the project, Kuehn said, will be getting an outfitted construction firm in line. There are currently more ethanol plants being built in the region than there are companies building them.

Local synergy

The facility, which would occupy all the remaining land in the commerce park, will be located among valuable neighbors. A next-door company, Advanced Fiberglass Technologies, Inc., produces specialized ethanol storage tanks.

"There is some wonderful synergy within our park," Carson said, adding that the plant could attract other industry-friendly tenants. "We could end up with an energy park at the rate we're going."

The plant would also produce a useful byproduct from the corn it would process, called "distiller grain," that can be used as animal feed.

This feed can be shipped to the nearby Town of Armenia in Juneau County where a 5,000-head dairy operation is currently being put in place, as well as many other large dairy farms in northern Wood and Marathon Counties.

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