Fergus Falls, Minn. — In just eight days, Otter Tail Ag Enterprises, LLC raised $42.2 million in capital and attracted 877 investors from rural Minnesota — 59 percent of them farmers.

The $100-million-plus ethanol project, the largest private investment ever made in Otter Tail County, was developed with help from AURI’s Center for Producer-Owned Energy. The ethanol plant’s annual economic impact in Otter Tail County and the surrounding region will top $110 million, says Kelly Longtin, Otter Tail Ag Enterprises CEO.

The new ethanol business is an example of how renewable energy development is helping to diversify farm income and stimulate rural economic activity, says Energy Center Director Max Norris. The Energy Center estimates that its two dozen renewable energy development projects have benefited at least 8,800 Minnesota ag producers.

The Energy Center and the Minnesota Corn Growers Research & Promotion Council provided start-up money so Otter Tail Ag could do a feasibility study, prepare a business plan and organize an equity drive. “It was a great boost to help get our company off the ground in the very beginning,” Longtin says. Without some early assistance “to determine if we could go forward, it probably wouldn’t have happened.”

In October, Otter Tail Ag Enterprises broke ground on a 65-million-gallon corn dry mill plant being built by Harris Mechanical of Minneapolis. OTAE’s venture is financed by AgStar and Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation, a consortium of Detroit Lakes, Minn. banks. The plant will market its ethanol through Renewable Products Marketing Group of Belle Plaine, Minn. and Commodity Specialists Company of Minneapolis will handle the plant’s distillers grains.

When it begins operating in 2008, OTAE will employ about 35 workers and generate an annual payroll of at least $1.5 million, Longtin says. The Fergus Falls business is a JOBZ participant.

OTAE, the first ethanol plant in northwestern Minnesota, will grind 20 million bushels of corn a year. “We’re going to be in the market for corn every day,” Longtin says, “which should enhance the basis to local farmers.” ¦

Partners

The Center for Producer-Owned Energy has worked with organizations and grower groups from many sectors of Minnesota agricultural production, processing and research. Some of our partners include: