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Pardon the play on words, but it’s too good to pass up: There has been some hot news in industrial development in Mitchell County recently.

Hot as in a major solar power project near St. Ansgar. Hot as in the grand opening of the Valent BioSciences Corp. in Osage. Two big stories unfolding in a matter of days, which is good news not only for Mitchell County but for all of North Iowa because of the trickledown effect.

Both projects are intriguing, and although the Valent project carries a much bigger dollar value, the solar program adds to North Iowa’s growing reputation as an alternative-energy hotbed.

Pegged at a value of $1.5 million, the Heartland Power solar array – a fenced field where solar panels are arranged in frames -- will be on a 4-1/2-acre rural tract east of St. Ansgar. It will house 1,200 solar panels that will generate electricity.

Solar panel subscriptions will be made available for purchase by Heartland Power members – there are approximately 5,200 of them.  The project will be funded by those participating in the project and will not be subsidized by members not purchasing subscriptions.

Those who do purchase subscription get the benefits of solar ownership, according to a statement from Heartland, “yet bypass the research, construction and ongoing maintenance and repair required of a stand-alone system.”

When it’s complete late this fall, it will be one of the largest solar projects in Iowa, according to Mitchell County Economic Development Commission Director Brenda Dryer, who said Heartland management and the board of directors analyzed a number of sites in their service territory.

 “We are thrilled to know the final site is in Mitchell County,” she said.

We don’t know all the factors that went into that decision, but Mitchell County certainly has proven it knows how to do economic development.

The Valent project could not be a better example. This $146 million, 130,000-square-foot facility produces biorational products and employs 89 people. Some two years in the building, it is Valent’s first facility designed and built to manufacture biorationals, products that range from biological pesticides to products used for crop stress management, plant strengthening, root growth management and post-harvest benefits. Products and substances are used extensively in agriculture, public health and forestry.

This is a huge project, especially for a smaller, rural county. And size did matter, according to Gov. Terry Branstad, who spoke at the grand opening.

“Osage is small enough to build personal relationships,” he said. “And Iowa is the premier leader in renewable fuels and ag biosciences.”

He also praised Valent BioSciences and its parent company, Sumitomo Chemical Co., for innovation, quality of life and having and environmental conscious, saying all are important to Iowans.

Indeed they are, and that’s why it’s so gratifying to see these two projects take root in Mitchell County and North Iowa.

Projects like these don’t just happen out of the blue. They have to fit the host locations and the companies well. There is much hard work involved – details sometimes unimaginable to those outside the development circles.

But now, what we have in Mitchell County are projects called very good fits by all parties involved.

We congratulate them. We’re certain these project will be successful and help our economy grow as they grow.


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