Ethanol plant to create jobs in Great Falls and new grain market in Montana

Montana State Roundup

Published October 1, 1992  | October 1992 issue

An ethanol plant, scheduled for construction late this year in Great Falls, will bring permanent jobs and a new market for grain in Montana.

AmericanEthanolCorp., based in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, plans to begin construction on the $100 million plant this year with operation scheduled for early 1994. The plant will process 12 million bushels of wheat and barley yearly to produce 30 million gallons of ethanol. It will also create about 500 short-term construction jobs plus 130 permanent jobs to produce the ethanol, which is an oxygen additive for gasoline that makes it burn cooler and cleaner.

"It's a large boom for Great Falls," says Gary Mott, director of the small business development center. "When you create 130 new jobs, all aspects of business activity in the area are affected in a positive way." Mott says the majority of the permanent jobs will be filled by local residents, except for a few management specialists. He also expects to see a boost in the trucking and shipping industries, which are responsible for transporting grain to the plant.

The impact of the proposed plant on Montana grain growers is significant. "We're excited about the new plant. It will create a large new market for wheat and barley," says Randy Johnson, executive vice president of the Montana Grain Growers Association. Johnson anticipates that farmers will meet the new demand from the surplus grain they now put into storage. Local demand for grain is expected to increase by 13 million to 26 million bushels, as much as 20 percent of Montana's yearly grain production. Johnson thinks grain prices may also be affected. "A new player in the local market may create additional competition with the traditional grain purchasers."

In addition to fuel-grade ethanol, the plant will produce two important grain byproducts—distillers dried grains, which is a high protein livestock feed, and vital wheat gluten, a high protein product used in human foods.

AmericanEthanolCorp. has plans to expand the plant, doubling the production capacity from 30 million to 60 million gallons a year and adding 30 to 40 permanent jobs by 1998. That expansion, however, will depend on an increased demand for ethanol and its byproducts.

Christine Power