The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

October 29, 2012

Growing jobs: Company plans agriculture plant in Enid

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A canola processing plant to be built in Enid will have an annual payroll of $3.75 million, Northstar Agri Industries and Enid Regional Development Alliance announced Monday.

Northstar is a subsidiary of PICO Holdings Inc. The plant will be able to process 2,200 tons of canola per day, or 760,000 tons per year. It will include a full refinery capable of annually producing 580 million pounds of food grade refined canola oil and 450,000 tons of canola meal.

Enid City Commission voted Monday to create a Tax Increment Finance District Review Committee to discuss the viability of a TIF to help finance construction of the plant. Brent Kisling, ERDA executive director, said the TIF is Enid’s way of competing with communities that can write a check for such expenses. He said the taxing entities will not lose money.

A TIF district establishes an area in which increased ad valorem taxes will be delayed for a specific period of time. The funds would be used to defray the costs of project development. Tax-receiving agencies continue to receive taxes at the current ad valorem rate until expiration of the TIF, at which point ad valorem taxes are paid out based on project improvements.

Officials said the plant is expected to create 55 permanent full-time jobs with an annual payroll of $3.75 million. Kisling said the project is a good opportunity for Oklahoma’s agriculture sector.

“The addition of a value-added canola processing plant in Oklahoma will provide regional farmers with a much-needed local market to support continued acreage growth,” he said. “I believe winter canola production is a game changer for Oklahoma agriculture, providing a much-needed rotation crop, improving winter wheat yields and quality, while increasing and diversifying farm income. We are excited to work with Northstar to bring a new canola processing plant to the Enid area.”

The plant will be located on the city’s east side and will be in the Pioneer-Pleasant Vale Public Schools district. Kisling said the exact location is not yet known, but the company has “a couple” of locations in mind. More details must be completed before an announcement is made, he said.

Canola has become a popular rotational crop in the area in the past few years.

Roger Don Gribble, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area agronomist, said how much more canola is planted depends on how much money farmers can make. He said if the plant improves the price of canola and farmers can make more money with canola than wheat, they will plant canola.

“People are becoming more comfortable with canola, and it’s a valuable rotation crop,” he said.

Gribble said farmers also will be looking for other things, such as whether canola better utilizes moisture in the area. He said Enid has been hard-pressed for rainfall the past two summers.

“That’s why you rotate,” Gribble said. “It all boils down to what can they make money at.”

Kisling has been working with Northstar officials for eight months and said they are a “class group of folks.”

“Their leadership team is amazing,” Kisling said. “They are well-funded; PICO Holdings is a publicly traded company in California. We had to put together an aggressive incentive package to encourage them to locate in Enid.”

Neil Juhnke, Northstar’s president and chief operating officer, said Oklahoma is a natural fit for company expansion, building on its success in Minnesota.

“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with southern Great Plains farmers to supply U.S. consumers and livestock producers with naturally heart-healthy canola oil and canola meal,” Juhnke said. “We look forward to working with state of Oklahoma, the city of Enid and regional canola producers and elevators to realize this exciting opportunity.”

Gov. Mary Fallin was pleased at the announcement.

“Oklahoma has a priority of supporting the growth and expansion of our strong agricultural and biosciences sector,” Fallin said. “I would like to personally welcome Northstar Agri Industries as a new member of our ag bio family in Enid.”