Hunter reports on progress of economic development projects

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

It's been a busy month in the offices of the Marshall-Saline Development Corporation.

At the monthly meeting of the MSDC Board of Directors Tuesday, MSDC Executive Director Roy Hunter reported a number of projects have made substantial progress since the board last met.

An older project making a resurgence is the possibility of developing a soy diesel production facility in Saline County. Hunter said the federal energy bill looks like it will be positive for renewable fuels such as soy diesel, and in California there is growing concern about the air quality effects of traditional diesel fuel.

"It's a good thing for us if they're thinking about those things," he said of California, which is known for its air quality legislation.

Hunter said a fuel blend containing 2 to 4 percent soy diesel would eliminate most of the problems concerning California residents.

A pair of projects are still being kept mostly under wraps, but Hunter was able to report on some of their progress.

The first is a local family which is working to create a new manufacturing facility in the county that would employ nine to 12 people. Hunter said the project is unique for him because it is the first time he has worked to create a new business with area residents.

"They're long-time residents of the county," Hunter said. "When they get this up and running we know they won't leave."

Hunter said most of the groundwork is already done for the project. All that remains is to finalize the funding, he said.

The second unnamed project is very close to making a public announcement, Hunter said. While nothing is final, Hunter said the company has indicated it intends to relocate to the county within 30 days. The new operation would employ about 60 people.

In other business, Hunter reported that he is in the early stages of researching the feasibility of creating a business incubator in Saline County. He said, to his knowledge, no such project has been undertaken in rural Missouri, but it has been done in St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia.

As currently envisioned, MSDC would construct a facility and let fledgling businesses use it for a time at little or no cost. Once the business has been given time to grow, it will move to its own facility and the building would then be open to a new business. Hunter said this should help small businesses deal with the high costs of getting started.

"Even if someone has a good idea, it's tough to get it funded," he said.

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