The future of Corn Plus —- operating in Winnebago since 1994 —– at this point seems to be unclear and confusing.
Two members of the plant’s board of directors — Don DeLanghe and Ted Landsteiner — reported Wednesday afternoon that the state’s first ethanol plant was closing.
But, Mayor Jeremiah Schutt says company officials informed him the facility is going into what they call a “cold idle.”
“They told us they’re hoping not to shut down forever,” says Schutt. “They want to do some restructuring and it is their intention to open at a later date. We’re hoping to work something out and keep it going.”
City Administrator Jacob Skluzacek and Annie Leibel, who has been hired by the city to provide economic development services, visited Corn Plus on Wednesday and were told the plant is not closing.
“Everything is kind of unofficial right now and the city doesn’t officially know what’s going on,” says Skluzacek. “We’re just going to wait and see if they release any information.”
By Friday, more than 600 shareholders of the the locally owned cooperative received a letter telling them the company would be shutting down operations over the next week.
According to the letter, the board of directors have pursued many options including selling the plant and financial restructuring.
Corn Plus continues to lose money monthly, says the letter, and the company’s current financial agreement is scheduled to expire next week.
“A resolution satisfactory to Compeer, Corn Plus’ primary lender, has not been achieved,” says the letter. “We will continue to discuss the situation with Compeer and other stakeholders but at this time we have no indication whether operations will resume at a future date.”
Corn Plus reportedly has about 40 workers who are expected to be laid off.
It is not known what impact the ethanol plant’s financial troubles might have on Dixie Carbonic, which uses carbon dioxide gas from Corn Plus to produce dry ice.
Carbonic officials were not available for comment on whether any of the company’s 40 workers will be affected.