The idea is to try to get first two smaller-scale projects done, then pursue a larger investment for Epitome Energy.

Instead of seeking state bonding dollars this year through the legislature’s capital investment bill to help cover the costs of extending utilities and other infrastructure for two proposed ventures on Crookston’s southern edge, the City of Crookston and CHEDA are instead going to pursue a “business development public infrastructure grant” through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

“Mark and Deb know about it and that’s the route they recommended,” Interim City Administrator Angel Weasner said at this week’s CHEDA Board of Directors meeting.

“Mark and Deb” would be District 1 State Sen. Mark Johnson of East Grand Forks and District 1B State Rep. Deb Kiel of Crookston.

 

Change of plans

Initially, the ask for state funding support was much larger and on a bigger scale. The City of Crookston owns 100 acres south of Ingersoll Avenue, known as the “Colborn property,” and Dennis Egan of Epitome Energy is pursuing a land option on approximately 60 acres of the parcel to construct a soybean crush and biodiesel facility. In addition, Vertical Malt owners Adam and Tim Wagner, who grow and malt barley varieties for craft brewers in the region, have expanded as much as they can at Valley Technology Park and are looking later this year to start construction on a new facility on around six acres on the Colborn property. On another 10 acres of the parcel, a soy innovation campus is being proposed that’s somewhat tied to Epitome Energy but could function independent of the larger operation.

In all, it’s expected to cost around $15 million to extend roads, water and sewer lines and other infrastructure to satisfy the three initiatives. The plan initially was to seek around half of that in state bonding this year, but when there was no commitment in writing from any stakeholders to come up with the other half, Johnson and Kiel a couple months ago advised against asking for state capital investment dollars on that scale. At that point, the decision was made to seek bonding dollars only for infrastructure financing assistance for the Vertical Malt and soy innovation campus projects.

But now, the DEED grant will be the chosen route.

The particular grant fund to be pursued currently has no money in it, CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth says, but it will be replenished by the state and/or legislature in the coming months. It’s a rolling grant program, he added, with no deadline, so the plan is to start on the application right away so the local request is well positioned for when the DEED grant program gets its allocation.

Assuming the grant program gets its state appropriation, Hoiseth said indications that he’s been given are that the Crookston application would be well-positioned to receive some dollars.

The application will request $957,000, Weasner said. The way it works, she added, is that the project would be fully funded locally, then the state would reimburse half the cost.

Looking at the bigger picture, Mayor Dale Stainbrook says that if state dollars help make the Vertical Malt and soy innovation campus initiatives a reality, the City, CHEDA and Epitome Energy could potentially be looked upon by the legislature more favorably if a larger state investment in a larger infrastructure project for Epitome Energy is subsequently sought.

Hoiseth said the idea is to try to “run a parallel path” with the trio of initiatives on the southern edge of town. “We’ve always said we don’t want to put in a road to nowhere,” he said. “The timing gets a little tricky. Businesses would like to see the street and water first, but this will probably be a concurrent event.”