Janesville46.4°

Sharon ethanol plant plan stalls

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ANN MARIE AMES
July 12, 2010
— It was touted as the perfect site for an ethanol plant.

Apparently, location isn’t everything.


The former Whitewater company Global Renewable will not build an ethanol plant in the village of Sharon. The company has dissolved.


“We are not going forward with the Sharon plant,” former company President Jeff Knight said. “I’m on to other things.”


That decision leaves the village with only a few lots sold in its industrial park and no plans for industry in the near future.


Global Renewable in 2006 proposed a $237 million ethanol plant on Highway 67 on the village’s west side. A year after the project was proposed, the company had gotten 90 percent of the necessary financing, Knight previously told the Gazette.


Then corn prices rocketed, and ethanol plants across the country started going bankrupt. Banks stopped giving loans for new projects, Knight said.


As late as summer 2009, Knight had told the Gazette he still hoped to build an ethanol plant in Sharon. The plant was expected to produce up to 120 million gallons of ethanol from 38 million bushels of corn.


It was expected to anchor Sharon’s industrial park.


The village owns 44 acres adjacent to the site of the proposed ethanol plant. Global Renewable bought or had options to buy almost 200 acres where the plant was supposed to be sited. A private investor still owns some of the lots, Knight said.


The empty lots make up the village’s industrial park.


The village drew up plans to run water and sewer to the park, village board President Diana Dykstra said. Planners estimate it would cost $2 million to build the infrastructure, she said.


The village wants commitment from a business before spending that kind of money on construction, she said.


“Developers want to have some infrastructure, depending on their size. And we don’t want to build that unless we know we can recoup those costs,” Dykstra said. “It’s tough.”


Even a loan for preliminary work would have cost too much, Dykstra said.


“We just couldn’t tax the residents any more when we didn’t have someone ready to go in,” Dykstra said.


It’s not clear how much the village spent on engineers and attorneys while negotiating with Global Renewable.


Last year, village Clerk Dawn Redinius told the Gazette the village spent more than $40,000 on attorneys fees. Former village board President Chuck Dorn told the Gazette the village spent more than $100,000 on attorneys and engineers.


The village paid an attorney to write pre-annexation agreements for the project. Professionals also negotiated terms for tax-exempt industrial revenue bonds and worked to help the village create a tax incremental finance district.


The tools were intended to support Global Renewable’s search for financing.


The Gazette will request copies of bills related to engineers and attorneys in relation to the proposed plant.


The site is prime for a fuel-production business, Knight said. It is close to rail lines, gas lines and lots of corn, he said.


An ethanol plant would have been able to deliver a competitively priced product, he said.


“You just can’t see that not flourishing sometime,” Knight said about the site.


Dykstra said Sharon remains a good location for the right business. Because no parcels are earmarked in the industrial park, a business that picks Sharon could choose how big it wants its site, she said.


The village will continue to work with the Walworth County Economic Development Agency to land the right company in the park, Dykstra said.


“It is a perfect area for an environmental or agricultural business,” Dykstra said. “We hope someone will recognize that and contact us.”


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TIMELINE

November 2006: People pack Sharon Village Hall to hear Global Renewable announce plans to build one of the biggest ethanol plants in the state. Officials expect the plant to open by early 2009 at the latest.


March 2007: The village of Sharon annexes 518 acres. The land is slated as a home for the ethanol plant as well as an industrial park. The village starts to create a tax incremental financing district to help entice the plant to locate in Sharon.


April 2007: The Sharon Village Board approves the sale of $60 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds. The planning commission approves $13 million in tax-increment financing for infrastructure improvements.


June 2007: Global Renewable gets air quality and construction permits from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The permits have since expired.


December 2007: Global Renewable reports that it’s raised more than 80 percent of the $237 million needed to build the ethanol plant. The U.S. Senate passes a bill calling for the nation to produce 36 billion gallons of biofuel annually by 2022.


July 2008: The Janesville Gazette reports that Global Renewable plans to break ground by fall. It’s the last time a company official shares a timeline with the newspaper.


June 2009: Global Renewable still hopes to build in Sharon, although the company cannot say when.


July 2010: Jeff Knight, former president of Global Renewable, confirms that the plant will not be built and the company has dissolved.



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