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Ethanol Plant Ends Up in Oregon

by Ken Dey
Idaho Statesman, July 24, 2003

Idaho fails to keep $80 million project in state

What would have been Idaho´s first major commercial ethanol plant instead has found a home in Oregon.

John Hamilton, project manager for Treasure Valley Renewable Resources, the group developing the $80 million plant, said Wednesday that his firm has accepted a proposal to locate the plant in Oregon despite efforts by the state of Idaho to locate the plant in several other Idaho communities.

Hamilton declined to release any details about the proposal, or where the plant would be located in the state. He said more details would be provided Friday at a 4 p.m. news conference to be held at Ontario´s airport.

Treasure Valley Renewable Resources had hoped to locate the plant in Payette County, but those efforts fell apart in May when the county commissioners couldn´t agree on a zoning change that would have cleared the way for the plant.

After the Payette County plan stalled, officials from the state of Oregon, Malheur County and the city of Ontario put together a multimillion-dollar package of incentives— at the time reported to be in excess of $30 million — to entice the plant across the Snake River to Ontario.

Plant backers said the Oregon proposal was a “hard invitation to turn down,” but they still agreed to hear presentations from other Idaho communities.

Hamilton said Wednesday that company executives met with Caldwell and Canyon County officials as well as representatives from Gem and Washington counties about locating the plant in those areas. The group also looked at an alternate site in Payette County.

“We evaluated the properties and the proposals and made the choice,” Hamilton said.

He said ethanol will be the secondary product for the plant. The grains that come into the plant will be used as a source of fiber that can be sold in the health food and pharmaceutical markets. The remaining starch from those grains would then be used to make ethanol.

Hamilton said the plant still will use crops from Idaho farmers, and some Idahoans will still likely get jobs at the plant, but it will be Oregon residents, not Idahoans, who benefit from the property taxes.

Cliff Long, manager of business development at the Idaho Commerce Department, said Wednesday state officials were disappointed.

“We hate to lose projects, and we gave this project a good shot,” Long said. “Unfortunately we were up against some heavy competition from Malheur County and Oregon.”

Long said the state had been working with the other communities interested in the plant and had committed to provide work force development funds and investment tax credits, but Long said those inducements were no match to the type of incentives Oregon offered.

Long said Oregon designates areas called “enterprise zones” and Ontario and Malheur County are in one of those zones. When a company locates in such zones, the city and county agree to forgo property taxes for up to five years. Long said he also understood that the company was able to gain an additional five-year break in taxes because of its renewable energy status.

“Idaho simply doesn´t have any kind of similar tax holidays,” Long said.

Dick Larsen, with the Idaho Department of Water Resources, whose agency has taken the lead effort in promoting ethanol in the state, said the plant will advance the use of ethanol as a fuel source in the Treasure Valley, but its location is unfortunate.

“It´s a mixed bag,” he said. “We´re glad to see ethanol come, but that plant should have been in Idaho.”

Construction on the plant could begin in the spring. Eventually it would employ 60 people and produce about 20 million gallons of ethanol a year.

“We hate to lose projects, and we gave this project a good shot. Unfortunately, we were up against some heavy competition ... ” Cliff Long, manager of business development, Commerce Department

Ken Dey
Ethanol Plant Ends Up in Oregon
Idaho Statesman, July 24, 2003

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