McKnight Foundation’s tour includes stop at ethanol plant

(Pictured are staff of the Initiative Foundation who provided a tour to board and staff members of the McKnight Foudation at the Central MN Ethanol Cooperative where General Manager Robyn Wells explained the steps used in ethanol production. Next to her was Rip Rapson, president of the McKnight Foundation. (080501mkft) Staff photo by Joyce Moran)

The Initiative Foundation has, in turn, used the donated money to award grants to community, economic and nonprofit organizations; to provide supplemental loans to businesses that secure quality jobs; to assist communities, environmental groups and nonprofit organizations to plan cooperatively for the future; and, to help donors achieve their charitable goals by serving as a vehicle to affect social change on a regional scale.

Last Monday and Tuesday staff members of the Initiative Foundation gave a tour to a team of delegates from the McKnight Foundation, showcasing some of its more successful investments. The tour, on Monday, included a stop at the Central MN Ethanol Cooperative, north of Little Falls. The Cooperative has received a total of $150,000 in loans from the Initiative Foundation.

“Currently,” explained Robyn Wells, general manager of the plant, “the plant is producing just under 20 million gallons of ethanol a year, with an outlook of doubling or tripling the production in the next few years.” She went on to point out the plant’s purchase of seven million bushels of corn a year—putting $1 million into the pockets of area farmers.

Asked about E-85 (85 percent ethanol), Wells answered, “There’s a good future for it. Already there’s a station in Fort Ripley that offers it. Not all cars can use it. Mostly, it’s just a computer chip that’s needed to make it work. And, yes, the price is about 20 cents less than regular gas.”

Also giving a presentation was Josh Zeithamer of Bio-Builders, a relatively new company in Little Falls and Alexandria which manufactures phosphate-free fertilizer from non-game fish. Currently, the company is also looking at using the distilled dried grain left over from the manufacture of ethanol in its product.

All in all, the Iniaitive Foundation in Morrison County alone, since 1986, has used the funds provided to give 151 grants totaling $809,189, five scholarships totaling $9,149, 45 loans that total $1,219,816, and created or retained 592 jobs.

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