Dave Brooks, the general manager of the facility that is still being refurbished said a number of factors contributed to POET's decision-making process.
Brooks wasn't a part of the decision-making process, but he elaborated on why the former Altra Biofuels plant was purchased by POET.
"They look at a number of things," Brooks said. "Is the local community receptive? Is there enough corn there to keep the facility supplied locally? They looked at the facility as a whole -- if it would meet their manufacturing process.
"The main thing is the locality from a corn standpoint," Brook said.
POET will use the plant to make ethanol, which is essentially pure alcohol. According to Brooks, the alcohol is somewhere between 190 to 200 proof -- or 95 to 100 percent pure alcohol. A small amount of gasoline is then added to the ethanol so it can't be consumed.
"You have to add a little gasoline to it," Brooks said.
The ethanol is then turned into fuel. Some of the ethanol ends up as the primary ingredient in the E-85 fuel at pumps. Other ethanol ends up in standard gasoline. Currently the amount of ethanol that can be placed in standard gas is 10 percent. POET hopes that percentage will go up.
"We're trying to get it to 15 percent," Brooks said. "We're waiting on an EPA decision to allow the blender to go to 15 percent."
Brooks said part of the importance of ethanol is it reduces the country's dependence on foreign oil.
"We're displacing refined oil in the form of gasoline," Brooks said. "Ethanol replaces gasoline. It's a higher-octane fuel. A cleaner burning fuel than gasoline.
"We're keeping these dollars at home for farmers and we're not relying on foreign oil," Brooks said.
The plant is also currently undergoing a $30 million alteration. Brooks said these alterations will increase the capacity of the plant.
"We'll modify the two existing grain bins and we're going to add two new grain bins to give us more in process storage capability," Brooks said. "With the existing facility, I think it was capable of around a million bushels, and we're trying to get that up to about 2.2 million bushels of in-process storage capability for corn."
Brooks said the plant should be able to go through upwards of 30 million bushels of corn in a year.
Currently, only the two previous grain bins are present. Construction equipment is required around the plant -- protective glasses and hardhats. Even the main office is still being assembled, with boxes and supplies out in the open of the half-set up interior of the building.
Another part of the alteration process involves changing what was a heat-based fermentation process into what POET calls its BPX system, a proprietary chemical process that breaks the corn down into yeast that is then turned into ethanol.
"The current building had a cook process in fermentation, where they use heat and energy," Brooks said. "We do ours mainly with chemicals. It's a non-cook process."
The plant will also have a more thorough air cleaning system and will not discharge any water, Brooks said. It will discharge cleaned steam through the air cleaning system.
Brooks said the plant will have somewhere around 42 employees, with a mix between hourly and salaried employees. He said the interviews for hourly employees would probably begin in November and December.
"In our commodities department we have commodities assistants that are familiar with grain handling systems," Brooks said. "We have a handful of folks that we'll be looking for with some farm experience, some elevator experience. Those are some of the key skill sets we're looking at."
Brooks said some of the former Altra employees would be hired. Some are currently working as temporary employees.
Brooks said Putnam County has been welcoming to POET.
"The local community has been very receptive," He said. "Of course, any time you build a plant like this and it shuts down, the community is looking for those jobs to come back. This is an opportunity for the local community to get that process started back up again."