Ethanol plant set to receive $220K training bonus

by Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

The Route 66 Ethanol plant — to be operational in late summer — is to receive $223,783 for creating 27 jobs from the state’s Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP).

The program is one of the state’s economic development tools to bring in new businesses and to assist existing businesses in expansion projects, said Secretary Rick Homans of the New Mexico Economic Development Department.

“Creating 27 jobs in Tucumcari is like creating a 100 or more jobs in Albuquerque,” said Homans.

The JTIP funding awards are made after training and hiring has taken place, Homans said.

Homans said he was upbeat about the new ethanol plant and the MainStreet program that was awarded in the fall by the state to Tucumcari and its prospects for future job creation.

The old ethanol plant on Rock Island Road was purchased in September by a Dallas-based partnership, SOZO Energy, L.P., which has named the plant Route 66 Ethanol. It’s planned to be an R&D operation where ethanol producers and related industries can conduct tests on the various phases of ethanol production.

Rochelle Heussmann, director of SOZO’s environmental safety and health, said, the JTIP training incentive assists “Route 66 Ethanol to hire local persons, where applicable, and train them to fill our positions.

“By Route 66 Ethanol using this incentive, we will be creating a diverse background for the workforce and decrease the amount of recruiting in the ethanol industry to fulfill crucial roles.”

The ethanol biofuels manufacturer has pushed back its start-up time to late summer because of equipment delays brought on by bad weather here and in the Midwest, Heussmann said.

This has also pushed back the company’s employment application deadline to May 1, said Heussmann. A deadline for job seekers to pick up applications will be announced later by the company, she said.

Meanwhile, tanks and piping have been moved from the facility to the plant’s yard. Some will be picked up for shipment to be refurbished and later re-installed with incoming new equipment in the coming months, she said.

Heussmann also said the company has been in preliminary discussions with farmers regarding future grain puchases, and with feeders regarding a co-product of ethanol production, WDG (wet distillers grain) and propsective vendors who would be using the plant to produce and to test its products and mehods in ethanol production.

In all, the JTIP board approved $1,594,371 in funds at its Feb. 9 board meeting, creating 573 new jobs in Albuquerque, Hobbs, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Rio Rancho and Tucumcari.

While existing and new businesses have received awards in Tucumcari from JTIP, the award to Route 66 Ethanol is the largest to date, said Franklin McCasland, acting director of the Tucumcari Greater Economic Development Corp.