Choose a success story below or download the Success Stories Booklet.
WE ARE THE “REAL, RENEWABLE COMMUNITY”
Swift County has long been known as an entrepreneurial community. Business development and growth has been fostered here by visionary leaders The community has done a great deal to retain the businesses we have and to help them grow right here. Swift County has also nurtured entrepreneurs with new ideas, helping them grow from one or two person operations to businesses employing many area residents. And well before others began describing themselves as renewable communities, Swift County was quietly at work actually making things happen that would gain it the well deserved reputation for being the “real, renewable community” Special thanks to the leaders from our community’s past, present and future for their belief that we could survive and thrive!
|Corny Goodness||BACK TO TOP|
|Minnesota Corn Yarn
Corny Goodness was born in West-Central Minnesota in the spring of 2009. We were very fortunate to meet a pioneer in the field of Corn Fiber Technology and have a continuing relationship with his company, Future Products. While learning of the fantastic properties of this fiber, we envisioned a source for a knitting and crochet yarn that was readily available, affordable, and worth all the time that knitters and crocheters put into their projects.A product that is renewable, compostable, machine washable, and lovely to wear is like a dream come true! No more sacrificing quality for all the practical aspects that we need in the 21st century. The properties of this fiber encourage us to incorporate it into our daily lives – for a higher quality of living and an environmentally responsible approach to life.
|CVEC||BACK TO TOP|
|Benson Company Thinking for the Future
The dream of an ethanol plant in the Benson, Minnesota area originated from the initial discussions between John Carruth, a local farmer, and Ray Millett, the manager of the local electric cooperative. They saw the ethanol plant as a way to return a higher value for area corn production and stabilize electric rates. The Chippewa Valley Agrafuels Cooperative (CVAC) was formed with over 650 shareholders made up of producers, elevators and local investors. CVAC teamed up the design-builder Delta-T Corporation to form Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company, LLC. (CVEC) This brought together a local interest with a supply of corn and an engineering firm who had the experience and expertise in the ethanol business. Construction on the plant began in June 1995 and was completed in April 1996 – ahead of schedule and well within budget. The first bushel of corn was ground on April 26, 1996 and was at 100% of capacity within 30 days. The plant averaged 98% of design capacity over the first six months of operation and produced 17 million gallons during fiscal year 1997.
|ECONAR||BACK TO TOP|
|Geothermal Heat Pumps
ECONAR is a green company that was founded in 1979 with the goal of, as ECONAR advertising coordinator Susie Overholser tells it, “bettering the planet and not abusing it.” Its manufacturing plant is in Appleton, and the corporate offices are in Elk River. The company, begun in its founder’s basement, now employs 41 people and has a network of 552 dealers. To date, it has over 15,000 units in use around the world. These numbers prove ECONAR to be a rapidly growing alternative to more conventional heating sources.ECONAR produces geothermal heat pumps for use in homes, businesses, or by anyone who needs to heat a building. These heat pumps utilize the earth’s natural temperature as a renewable source of energy, and help to save on monthly heating and cooling bills. They cost less to operate, are virtually silent, and are far less dangerous than sources such as natural gas, propane or fuel oil. Additionally, since geothermal energy is a constantly renewing source of energy, there is no danger of running out.
|Fibrominn||BACK TO TOP|
|Power from Poultry LitterTM
Fibrominn, the first poultry-litter fueled power plant in the U.S., opened in Benson, Minnesota, in 2007. Fibrominn is a subsidiary of Fibrowatt LLC, which develops, builds, owns and operates electrical power plants fueled by poultry litter and other agricultural biomass.Fibrowatt LLC is owned by Homeland Renewable Energy of New Hampshire. Its management team is the only one in the world that has experience developing and operating poultry-litter fueled power plants.
Fibrowatt LLC was founded in 2000 by the same management team that built the world’s first three poultry-litter fueled power plants in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. These plants, which were built in response to the poultry industry’s need for a litter disposal alternative, generate homegrown renewable energy.
This proven technology is now being introduced to select poultry-producing communities in the United States. Fibrominn, the nation’s first poultry-litter fueled power plant, opened in Benson, Minnesota, in 2007.
Learn more about Fibrominn and even watch a video about the project here.
|Future Products||BACK TO TOP|
|Clothing from Corn
Lenz and Future Products are at the forefront of the latest advance in corn, polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is a corn-based product that is renewable and biodegradable, making it much more friendly to the environment than many synthetic products available today. PLA can be produced in a plastic or textile format and is used to make bedding, film wrap for tapes and CD’s, foam packaging, cord and rope, mattresses, cups, and serving utensils. In textile form, PLA can be spun into fibers for a natural fabric, such as cotton, silk, or wool, or it can be blended with other fabrics. Also, unlike synthetic fabrics such as polyester, nylon, or rayon, PLA derived products will breakdown into fertilizer someday instead of adding to already full landfills. The possibilities are endless, and all of them make the future look just a little bit brighter!
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|Shaking things up in Benson
Shakers boutique vodka is made from wheat and rye grown in Minnesota, and in the same facility that also makes 45 million gallons of ethanol a year. The Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company that started brewing ethanol a decade ago, and now makes millions of dollars selling Shakers at $33 a bottle (one company exec said the last year saw 15,000 cases go out the door).Why vodka, many ask? And why Benson, Minnesota? As it turns out, luxury vodka is a rapidly expanding segment of the alcohol market, and Pat Couteaux, the master distiller for Shakers Vodka and a cofounder of Infinite Spirits, recognized this. However, the lack of a competitive American vodka at the ultra-premium level challenged him. He decided to try to fill that niche, and saw in Glacial Grain Spirits a first-class facility with the capability of producing his product. An agreement was reached, and in March of 2003, Shakers Wheat, Rye, and Rose flavored vodkas were released to critical acclaim. Shakers is a vodka that reflects the land it comes from. It is made from Minnesota wheat and rye, grown by Minnesota farmers, in the heartland of America. “It’s about authenticity,” Bill Lee, the general manager of CVEC, says. “There’s no need for flashy advertising. Shakers speaks for itself.” Mitch Miller, CVEC’s operations manager, agrees. “There’s a lot of local pride that Shakers is holding its own at a high level, not just among people in Benson, but in the ethanol industry as well.”
|Stony Ridge Foods||BACK TO TOP|
Right in the heart of Benson, Minnesota lies Stony Ridge Foods, a small but important business run by Dan and Jeena Hughes. Stony Ridge Foods is a family run farm company that focuses on non-genetically modified organisms, or, non-GMOs, as well as identity preservation of crops. In the food industry, non-GMO companies are the underdogs, and the Hughes family understands that quite well. There is a growing importance, however, in what they do. Non -GMOs and companies concerned with identity preservation have an insight into the future of farm economics, and are preparing for what will come.Stony Ridge Foods started out as a family dry bean farm, the Hughes Trading Company. They worked as originators with ag giants Klein International starting in 1989, but when Klein Int. was purchased by Con-Agra in 1997, the Hughes decided to terminate their relationship with the company. They saw the need for an identity preserved dry bean business, and the change from Klein Int.’s family-owned atmosphere to the big-industry Con-Agra did not fit their goals. For several years the Hughes family focused just on growing their dry bean crops and expanding their contacts in the industry. Then, in September of 2000, they purchased Nelson Seed Company in Benson and spent the next two years cleaning up and restructuring the company to launch their own business. In the spring of 2002, they exported their first shipment – soybeans – to Japan. Stony Ridge Foods was born.