Economic Development Boon

By Holly Jessen | October 05, 2012

Rita Frahm, president of Ida County Economic Development, feels Ida County, Iowa, is blessed to have two ethanol plants—Quad County Corn Processors at Galva and Platinum Ethanol LLC, a 110 MMgy facility located about 15 miles away in Arthur. The fact that Quad County will be bringing cutting-edge technology for cellulosic ethanol to the county is especially exciting. “There’s a lot great things that are happing there and we feel very fortunate to have that going on in a rural part of the world,” she says.

Even without the cellulosic ethanol add-on, the farmer-owned plant already provides area residents with highly skilled, technical job opportunities. R&D lab assistant Allison Kinney, who works with Travis Brotherson in Quad County’s R&D facility, is a great example, Frahm says. She graduated from high school in Ida County and was living out of state when the job opened up at Quad County. Brotherson, who grew up about 40 miles away from the plant and has lived his whole life in Iowa, started out working at the ethanol plant as a night operator. He came back to work as plant engineer after going back to school at Iowa State University. Either way, whether it brings people back home or allows them to stay in the area without moving away—that’s a success story, Frahm says.

Of course, it’s not just direct jobs that have a positive effect. An industrial park is developing around the ethanol plant, including a co-located C02 plant that employs about a dozen workers, she says. And, an American Natural Soy food-grade processing plant is expected to reach full production levels in early 2013. Across the street from the ethanol plant is Iowa’s first blender pump, which is owned by a local cooperative. The area has also experienced a growth in the livestock industry, thanks to the distillers grains produced at area ethanol plants. A past tour of beef facilities in Ida County attracted more than 400 people from a tri-state area, she says. Together, the industries have spurred increased intergenerational opportunities, allowing younger farmers to get into the grain or livestock business.

All in all, agricultural innovation—including ethanol production—has had a very positive impact on Ida County and Galva in particular. In fact, from the 2000 to 2010 U.S. Census, Galva was the only city in that county to experience growth while the county as a whole declined in population. The town, which now has a population of 434, grew 17 percent in 10 years. As a result, Galva has a new bank, housing subdivision and a wellness center. And, for the first time in nearly 20 years, the community just might attract a grocery store. “These things are all just huge for us in a very small community,” she said.

See the main story, Going for the Fiber, for more information about this plant. 

—Holly Jessen