Is Corn Plus closing or not?
One of the oldest ethanol plants in the state of Minnesota was reported to be making plans to shut down last week. But, despite numerous stories and reports in other medias, there is still a question whether it is closing for good or not.
Corn Plus, located in Winnebago, had made no official announcement as of press time for this week’s edition of the Faribault County Register, but other area media were reporting the rumored closure as true.
The Register attempted to get a statement from interim general manager Mark Palmer, but he said he had no official statement to make at this time.
One of the board members, however, Don DeLanghe, has been quoted in area media as saying the plant is completely shutting down as early as Friday of last week.
Winnebago city administrator Jacob Skluzacek says he and Winnebago’s mayor, Jeremiah Schutt, and economic development specialist, Annie Leibel, contacted Corn Plus officials and were told the plant was not closing, but was going into what they termed a “cold idle.”
“They did say they would be laying off employees,” Skluzacek said. “But they did not say how many or if they are shutting down the plant for good.”
Mayor Schutt added they did not indicate when the plant would be open and operating again.
Schutt and Skluzacek both said they are still trying to learn what is actually going on as far as the future of the Corn Plus plant, which is reported to have 37 employees working there.
Corn Plus was started in 1994 by area farmers, one of two farmer owned plants started that year in Minnesota.
It has often been called one of Minnesota’s largest, if not the largest, ethanol producing plants in the state. It has been producing up to 49 million gallons annually.
However, the plant has also had some issues in the past, including being accused of breaking environmental laws and being fined a reported $1.1 million total in fines since between 2009 and 2011, by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, (MPCA), as well as the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A felony conviction was part of the case.
Back in 2014 there was a deal proposed where Corn Plus would be sold to an Iowa-based firm. However, the deal never happened when it was blocked by some of the 600 farmer-investors in the Winnebago plant.
That also resulted in several management personnel leaving, as well as several new directors being elected to the board.
The farmer-owners raised a large amount of money which was used to invest in new equipment at the plant at that time.