SPIRITWOOD, N.D. — The board of directors of the Minnesota Soybean Processors is hoping a change at the CEO post boosts its equity drive and accelerates its timeline leading to construction, according to Bruce Hill, president of Minnesota Soybean Processors and the planned North Dakota Soybean Processors at Spiritwood.

“We have changed leadership,” he said. “We are trying to put out a different message.”

Scott Austin was terminated from the CEO position and replaced by Scott White on April 26. Austin had been general manager at the Brewster, Minn., soybean processing plant since 2015 and CEO of Minnesota Soybean Processors and North Dakota Soybean Processors since 2017, according to his Linkedin account.

Hill said the team working on the Spiritwood soybean crushing plant project is still the same even after replacing Austin.

“The team is still all together,” he said. “Just changed the leadership at the top. The other people did all the work.”

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Minnesota Soybean Processors announced plans to construct a crushing plant in the Spiritwood Energy Park Association industrial park in February 2017. The plant is planned for land owned by the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. immediately south of the Dakota Spirit AgEnergy ethanol plant.

Corry Shevlin, business development director for the JSDC, said the land is still available and the JSDC is offering economic incentives for additional infrastructure for the plant through the cooperation of the state of North Dakota.

The plant has an engineer’s estimated cost of about $287 million. The plant would process about 125,000 bushels of soybeans per day or 42 million bushels per year. It would produce soymeal and soy oil for various products.

The plant would receive steam energy from Great River Energy’s Spiritwood Station and utilize the SEPA rail loop for transportation.

Hill said recent discussions with contractors and engineers have resulted in little change to the estimated cost or plant design.

Equity drives for the project began shortly after the announcement. At that time, the company was seeking $60 million from qualified investors to supplement a $66 million investment by Minnesota Soybean Processors in the planned Spiritwood plant.

“We still have quite a bit left to raise and we would like it to be a North Dakota project,” Hill said, referring to where they are seeking investors. “... We need to raise about $50 million.”

Hill said the process of marketing the equity drive will focus on “North Dakota people selling to North Dakota people.” The investment documents available at North Dakota Soybean Processors also note third-party recruiters are working with investors outside the area.

“We made big changes,” he said. “Now it is up to the investors to push it over the goal line.”

Hill has an aggressive timeline planned for the plant this summer..

“My goal is to have the equity raised by the end of May,” he said.

That would be followed by several weeks of paperwork to close escrow with crews “pushing dirt by summer or early fall.”

Shevlin said the equity drive is the biggest task remaining for North Dakota Soybean Processors before construction could start.

“We’re working with them as much as we can,” he said.

The current equity subscription period expires June 30 and cannot be extended any later than Aug. 31, according to the most recent documents issued by Minnesota Soybean Processors defining the investment process.

Hill said he recognizes that money is tight in the current farm economy.

“Everybody is short of money,” he said, “but that demonstrates why this plant is needed up here. It is a good plan for North Dakota, the farmers in the area and the investors.”