Ethanol pioneer Harold Newman dies

By Holly Jessen | February 21, 2014

Harold Newman, a pioneer in the ethanol world and a North Dakota businessman, died Feb. 20 at his home in Jamestown, N.D. He was 80 years old.

“He was a visionary and a risk taker,” said Larry Johnson of LLJ Consulting and Business Development, who knew Newman from the early days of the ethanol industry in the early 1980s, a time when everybody in the ethanol industry was a risk taker. Johnson added that Newman was innovative and a very devoted and sometimes impatient supporter of the ethanol industry.

Newman was a force behind ethanol in North Dakota, owning and operating Alchem ethanol plant, a 10.5 MMgy legacy ethanol plant at Grafton, N.D. The plant closed in 2007 and was ultimately dismantled. It started out as a potato flake plant and began producing 3.5 MMgy of fuel ethanol in 1983. The capacity was up to 10.5 MMgy in 2007, but was only producing 8.5 MMgy.

Newman didn’t leave the ethanol scene, however. His family is behind Tharaldson ethanol, a 153 MMgy in Casselton, N.D.  And, he was one of the early promoters behind an ethanol plant for the Jamestown, N.D., area. Although that project wasn’t ultimately completed, his work was acknowledged last spring at the groundbreaking for Dakota Spirit AgriEnergy, the 65 MMgy corn-ethanol plant under construction at Spiritwood, N.D. The $155 million facility is a project of Midwest AgEnergy Group, owned by Great River Energy. 

He also founded Newman signs in 1956. The business grew from him painting signs in his mother-in-law’s garage to pay for his college tuition to a multi-million dollar business based in Jamestown, with locations in four other North Dakota cities and two in New Mexico. According to the company website, Newman Signs has acquired close to three dozen sign companies since 1972.