Archive for September, 2012

Minnesota: the bioeconomy’s “Get it Done, Make it Happen State”

What is in the water up in Minnesota? Partnership seems to have become part of a new hybrid DNA, the Digest discovers in its special report on the state’s progress in biobased fuels, chemicals and materials.

There seems to be some confusion at the state level as to exactly what Minnesota’s nickname is – official publications refer to “the North Star State” while the US Mint put “Land of 10,000 Lakes” on the back of the Minnesota commemorative quarter. Since alternatives seem to be generally acceptable, we propose the “Get it Done State” for your consideration.

You see, other states can match Minnesota for its wealth of agricultural and forest resources (though ample they are), or its foundational base in agriculture and energy (via giants like Cargill, CHS and EcoLab) and for its highly-trained workforce (though more skilled they rarely come). But for per-acre yields of moxie and gumption, it would be hard to find a match.

Get it Done, Make it Happen

Leadership seems to be available as a low-cost residue up there, we’ve not yet exactly figured out how or why. Want to push through the transformative Farm Bill through the 2008 House Agriculture Committee? Minnesota’s Collin Peterson took the reins. Help push through the Algae Biomass Organization from great idea to great organization? Minnesota’s Mary Rosenthal, Tom Byrne, and Todd Taylor have been amongst the drivers. Innovative leaders in first-gen fuels like Brain Kletscher at Highwater Ethanol and Steve Christensen at Granite Falls Energy. Academic leaders such as Brendan Jordan, Director of Bioenergy at the Great Plains Institute, and legendary UMinn chemical engineer Lanny Schmidt; innovative venture capitalists like First Green’s Doug Cameron and Tom Erickson; perceptive analysts like Piper Jaffray’s Mike Cox and Mike Ritzenthaler; Luca Zullo, whose VerdeNero consultancy was on the of the first to focus on opportunities in green-black technologies. Just to name a small handful.

See the rest of the article at:

Our Take:
Minnesota’s step-ahead position in the development of renewable energy started with our corn farmers, who believed that we could source our transportation energy in the Midwest instead of the Mideast.

This article is a great tally of all the impressive vanguard efforts rolling out here in Minnesota.

The one miss is to take as accurate recent newspaper reporting on the state of the Minnesota’s corn ethanol industry. Yes, the industry has hit a speed bump with the narrowed margin, but there is unsuspected strength in the farmer-owned LLC ethanol companies (which are not under obligation to publicly report their financials). These companies benefit from not only good timing but also a conservative ethic that favored reducing debt load over increasing profit sharing. Volatility in all energy markets will continue, but these companies will be able to weather the storms.

And the imminent birth of advanced biofuels and biorefinery products will take place among these farmer-based companies as much as any other participants in renewable energy production today.

Yes, Minnesota is a center for innovation. But don’t count the farmers out—they are right in the center of that pioneering spirit.