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Corn Plus changes directions

By Staff | May 9, 2011

Some changes are taking place at the Corn Plus ethanol plant in Winnebago.

And, it’s at the direction of general manager Mark Drake.

Three employees — the plant manager, environmental health safety manager and purchasing manager — were fired recently.

Drake called the decision “an internal matter” and an agreement prevents him from making any comments.

The move comes eight months after Drake was hired.

“The culture here needed to be changed. It was hard to do that,” he says.At the end of last September, Corn Plus reported annual gross revenues of about $70 million and employed close to 50. Its annual payroll is more than $2.5 million.

In another matter, Drake is taking steps to increase the facility’s profitability.

When he was hired, that was listed as one of his top priorities.

Drake is taking steps to do just that.

A $17 million dryer is being installed to generate more revenue.

Drake says 100,000 to 120,000 tons of dried distillers grain — a byproduct from ethanol production –will be dried and sold.

He estimates selling the product will result in an extra annual gross profit totaling about $6 million.

In addition, another $4 million is being spent on improvement to increase the facility’s efficiency.

“This is a 17-year-old plant that needs upgrading. So we can better do what we need to be doing,” he says.

Among the working capital being spent to help finance the upgrades is a monthly $1 million Alternative Fuel Mixture Tax Credit from the federal government.

Corn Plus receives the credit because the plant’s fluid-bed boiler burns stillage — a corn syrup byproduct of the ethanol process — with diesel to generate steam to operate the facility.