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Michigan grant program designed to create jobs
By KEVIN WALKER
Michigan Correspondent

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced the award recipient nominees for a grant program it says could create as many as 267 new jobs and more than $43 million in capital investment.

The agricultural innovation grants, also known as the Julian-Stille Value-added Program, is part of the so-called 21st Century Jobs Fund, a $2 billion, 10-year initiative proposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, approved by the legislature and administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC).

“The proposals we received reflected the diversity of Michigan agriculture,” said MDA Director Mitch Irwin. “From shrimp in Okemos to meat processing in Escan-aba, innovation is the key to growing our state’s $60.1-billion agriculture industry.”

There are 40 award nominees in five categories altogether. The amounts range from $12,500 to $315,000.

Among the nominees are the Michigan Sugar Co., a grower-owned cooperative in Bay City, Mich., which was nominated for two grants. One is for a feasibility study for a biodiesel production plant, the other for installation of beet ventilation equipment in sugar beet storage piles to prevent heat buildup and spoilage.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” said Ray VanDriessche, a company spokesman. “It allows us to look at some options.”

The company hopes to convert a recently shut-down processing facility near Saginaw, Mich., to a biodiesel facility. The $60,000 grant would pay for the study.

The ventilation equipment, which would be purchased with a $250,000 grant, would help to solve a common problem in sugar beet processing, VanDriessche said. This ventilation system, which is not widely used in the industry, would be able to keep track of temperatures in sugar beet piles, even deep inside.

When areas of the piles become too hot, tubes that are pushed into the piles would detect it. Fans would then turn on at night when the temperatures are cool, keeping the beets cool and preventing spoilage.

The system will increase the return to growers, VanDriessche said. Nominees also include the Mite Zapper of Detroit, which is interested in developing a non-commercial method of controlling the Varroa Mite. It’s been nominated for a $90,000 award. Entente Spirits of Baroda, Mich., is involved in creating fruit-flavored vodkas, and has been nominated for an $82,000 award.

Other nominees include the Michigan Turkey Producers of Wyoming, Mich., which has been nominated for a $250,000 grant to purchase new cooking equipment to prepare turkey products, accommodating new methods and retailing strategies. Heartland Ingredients of Hillman, Mich., is interested in bringing flour processing to Michigan from other states by purchasing equipment for the manufacture of gluten-free products. Its award amount would be $225,000.

The MDA received 225 grant proposals with requests that totaled $36 million. If all the award nominations are granted, they will total $4,733,632.

The evaluation process involved a scoring system that used the following criteria: economic impact on the community, impact on an agricultural product or service, extent of program innovation or initiative, clarity of the project with measurable outcomes, and management expertise.

The applicants are required to provide a cash match of 10 percent to be eligible for a grant. The nominees must still be approved by the state administrative board, which includes the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction. The board is expected to review the recommendations at an Oct. 3 meeting in Lansing, Mich.

For grant details, visit www.michigan.gov/mda, or call 517-241-2178.

This farm news was published in the Sept. 27, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

9/27/2006