$27 million retrofit planned for SB ethanol plant

It was about a year ago when the New Energy ethanol plant in South Bend abruptly stopped production—and started bankruptcy proceedings.

Soon, the plant shut-down should end. A new owner is set to re-start plant operations in May of 2014.

NewsCenter 16 has learned that the process will include a $27 million investment in plant improvements.

It’s the same plant that sold for a paltry $2.5 million at a bankruptcy court auction last March.

At the gates of that plant, you won’t find a ‘help wanted’ sign, but the process of hiring a new staff has started.

The new management kept such a low profile during a two day job fair held this week (Monday and Tuesday) off-site at the South Bend WorkOne office, some job applicants were surprised.

“Yeah, I never really thought about it. I didn’t even know it was ethanol, I just seen Energy Management up there, I didn’t know it was the ethanol plant,” said Maurice Scott.

The Connecticut based company that bought the plant, Nobles Americas, has hired a management firm out of Kansas to re-start production in May.

“We’re working with Energy Management Solutions on this, and they are bringing in people to fill about 60 positions,” said Chuck Knebl of WorkOne of Northern Indiana.

On the first day of the job fair alone, some 185 applicants showed up.

“Well, when you’re looking at about 50 jobs, I’m not sure about the salaries of the jobs, but I have read about 50 jobs coming to the area you know that could be a very positive thing,” said Councilman Oliver Davis, South Bend’s 6th District.

That’s not to say everyone is happy about the prospects of the plant ending its prolonged shut down.

A sign along the road in the 1500 block of Prairie Avenue reads, “Don’t re-open the ethanol plant,” and “Nobody wants the smell.”

The woman who made the sign did not want to be identified but she blames plant emissions for a host of health problems.

When the plant originally shut down in November of 2012, some homes in the neighborhood began flooding.

Turns out that the plant used enough water in its production process to lower the area’s water table.

When the pumping stopped—the flooding started.

On Monday evening, the South Bend Common Council appropriated $150,000 to a project to drill new city wells in the area so residents won’t have to rely solely on pumping at the plant.

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