More than 400 people braved 90 plus degree heat to help Shorty and John Whittington celebrate the grand opening of Indiana's first announced, and second-operating, soy biodiesel plant. Evergreen Renewables, Ft. Wayne, was announced after Integrity, but went on line just a few weeks ago.
Chris Novak, Indiana Soybean Board executive director, got it right. "This is a great party, and a great day for Shorty and his family, and Indiana agriculture," he says. "It's also a great day for Indiana farmers."
Some 250 of them signed a ceremonial Independence from Foreign Oil declaration that will be forwarded to Gov. Daniels. Both Whittingtons credit the Daniels Administration with being extremely helpful in their decision to set up shop in Morristown instead of an empty plant they already owned in northwest Ohio, and in helping them get this plant up and running.
Daniels wasn't on hand, but Lt. Governor Becky Skillman and Indiana State Department of Ag Director Andy Miller were. Both offered their congratulations, and also saw this as another step forward in Indiana's bid to be a major player in the renewable fuels industry.
Integrity Biofuels, started by the Whittington's, actually shipped out their first tanker of B 100, headed for blending by Countrymark into biodiesel fuel, before the big 'party.' While they're up and running at 6 million gallons per year now, they plan to go to 10 million in the near future, and expand from there. Whittington said in an interview with Indiana Prairie Farmer's Tom Bechman earlier this year that they could perhaps expand to 30 million gallons on their current site. Economics of processing and selling B 100 will determine how fast and how far they expand, Shorty says.
Those attending the festivities included local and state officials who helped make the project happen, but also the people Whittington considers most important - farmers. Shelby County Co-op and Premier Co-op, Greensburg, both sponsored bus trips that included a tour of Bunge's soybean oil refinery across the street from Whittington's plant, and then a tour to the petroleum refinery where Countrymark blends the B2 through B20 fuel.
Novak left farmers with this challenge. "We've now all got to go out and make this happen," he says. "Not only use it on your farm, but be proactive in your community. Get your local school district to use it because its cleaner air for kids, and work on other local officials and businesses. It's up to each of us to keep this going."