Wednesday, Dec. 15


Coal figures big in Logan County future

Local projects inching forward       Send a link to a friend

Enterprise zone opens Elkhart door

[DEC. 15, 2004]  Ignore the long, dreary days of approaching winter lending the sense of economic progress impeded. Nix. Government and business leaders have continued to be hard at work on some big projects that will build the local economy. The projects, some many years in the making, have made significant movement in recent weeks.

Though unofficial, it seems the Logan County Enterprise Zone extension from Lincoln to the Illiopolis Formosa plant, to Elkhart and to property on Fifth Street in Lincoln has been approved. The state office of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity has not yet contacted the Logan County zoning office or finalized the paper work.

Elkhart Village President Dayle Eldredge said she is pleased with the "finite progress" to move that forward. Elkhart now has the enterprise zone, and a new subdivision construction project is well under way out by the highway.

Two coal-fired plants have been looking hard at the Elkhart site. One plant would produce power, and the other would use corn to produce ethanol. The easy access to coal from the Turris coal mine makes it a prime site for both these businesses.

Cold, hard coal plays strong in Logan County's near future

Plans for a low-emissions boiler that would produce electrical power have been worked on by Corn Belt Energy for years. Speaking for Corn Belt, Dave Hawkinson said today that the enterprise zone does make a difference. It is estimated that it will save an estimated $6 million to $8 million in construction savings, with the more conservative figure likely, he said.

Both Corn Belt and Elkhart had hoped that a previous enterprise zone application would be approved several years ago. However, the state did not approve it, due to low unemployment figures, which were part of the criteria set at the formation of the Logan County Enterprise Zone. Additionally, just after that time, steel prices shot through the roof, and the feasibility of constructing the plant became financially questionable.

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The company consultant, Ed Smith, has continued to work on getting state and federal agency approvals for the project, and today it is much nearer to moving forward, Hawkinson said. The pace has been very slow, as it is costly and intricate. There are many factors, such as the environment and permits and various agencies to work with.

Elkhart is the only site being considered for this project, he said.

Hawkinson added that the local political support has been great.

Another coal-fired plant is looking for a central Illinois site to produce ethanol. A consortium of farmers intend to find a site where they can build a plant that combines Illinois coal and corn for the production of ethanol.

Two of the sites offering the necessary conditions -- which include a sufficient source of water, weight-bearing roads and railroad access -- are in Logan County. One is at Elkhart and the other is north of Lincoln.

If choosing the north Lincoln site, which would be somewhere between Eaton and East Lincoln Grain Elevator, the company would try to get the property -- which is currently all farm land -- annexed into the city, as well as trying to get enterprise zone inclusion.

Project manager Sarah Wilcox said that the company has been in negotiations for property in Logan County this week. They have also been in meetings with local government officials. No decisions or announcements are expected this week.

Of other note, Wilcox said that the company does have an equity drive scheduled to begin Jan. 10. There are 72 meetings planned here and in 22 surrounding counties, which will conclude by February, with a couple of follow-up meetings after that. How to buy shares will be discussed. The first meeting is Jan. 10, 2005, at 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus in Lincoln.

[Jan Youngquist]

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