Economic development shifts focus in face of pandemic

In a year that will long be remembered for its unprecedented challenges, Great River Energy found ways to adapt and continue working with its 28 member-owner cooperatives and economic development partners around Minnesota to support them and carve out opportunities wherever possible.

Travel restrictions and mandated closures resulted in a slower start to the year. However, by the end of 2020, the pace picked up and Great River Energy had actively engaged with 52 qualified business expansion and attraction projects in the manufacturing, distribution, health/service, data storage, and food production industries.

Great River Energy provides an array of economic development-related services to its 28 member-owners, including playing a supportive role in helping to align services behind expanding regional businesses as well as coordinating responses to inquiries from site selectors and companies with interest in the Minnesota market.

Great River Energy also participates in economic incentive packages for qualifying businesses, offering direct loans at 0% interest and providing technical assistance for cooperatives leveraging financing through the USDA Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant Program (REDLG) on behalf of eligible projects.

In 2020, Great River Energy engaged in four business financing projects with a combined loan value of over $1.3 million, leveraging a total capital expenditure of approximately $3 million.

Business expansion project spotlight: BioPlastic Solutions LLC

For the past two decades, BioPlastic Solutions LLC has engineered and manufactured proprietary bio-based poly resins and plastic products for regional, national and international clients. Founded in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota, under the original name of DiaServe, Inc., BioPlastic Solutions expanded into a new state-of-the art facility in Ellendale, Minnesota, in 2018 and has been growing ever since.

Last year, BioPlastic Solutions approached Steele‐Waseca Cooperative Electric (SWCE), its electricity provider and a Great River Energy member-owner cooperative, to discuss the company’s need for increased production capacity. In response, Great River Energy’s economic development team assisted the co-op in preparing and submitting an application for 0% interest financing through the REDLG.

The USDA approved a pass-through loan of $600,000 to support BioPlastic Solutions’ investment in new production equipment and building upgrades, and Great River Energy provided a partial loan guarantee to help secure the loan on behalf of SWCE. This project will add up to 16 new full-time jobs once completed.