From a $100 million company a decade ago to a billion dollar giant, Aurora Cooperative has experienced tremendous growth in the last decade, something co-op leaders celebrated as they broke ground on a new office complex this week.
But another project the co-op is a partner in languishes. Announced in 2006, the Aventine ethanol plant is built but not running.
Aurora Cooperative CEO George Hohwieler said, "They stated that at a certain point they're going to start operating it. We certainly hope that's the case."
By Aventine's admission, construction wrapped up a year and a half ago. The plant is surrounded by Aurora co-op facilities and should be a huge customer for the co-op's corn
"We look forward are very positive that in the near future we'll have another market for our farmers and their grain," Hohwieler said.
Aventine went bankrupt, and emerged with new owners who promised to turn corn into fuel.
Hohwieler said, We're poised to supply them grain co-products but also Steve, hold them accountable for the things they've agreed to do six years ago."
That accountability includes a lawsuit. Aurora Cooperative filed a federal lawsuit last week, saying they have a right to buy the land the plant is on.
High corn prices are great for farmers but tough for ethanol and could be a factor explaining why the plant hasn't begun operation, although the company declined to comment specifically why they haven't opened yet.
Aurora Mayor Marlin Seeman said the city has extended services to the plant and looks forward to the new customer. He acknowledged the economics of ethanol are likely the factor that has kept the plant from starting up.
If and when the plant opens, the co-op tells farmers there's little risk, since the co-op will buy the corn, not the plant itself.
"A buffer between possible third party that does not have the same cares and wants we do," Hohwieler said.
NTV reached out to Aventine, who told is the company is in a "quiet period."