Penford makes its case for growth

Questions from the public centered on plant odors, emissions, aesthetics and compatibility

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Tim Kortemeyer, president and general manager of Penford Products Co., told 75 people at a public forum last night that the company’s wish to expand next door into Riverside Park would not mean additional corn processing, with its accompanying emissions, odor, noise or truck traffic.

Instead, he said, Penford is trying to position itself to expand into a new bioprocessing venture as one of its main businesses, producing starch for the paper industry, gradually declines.

About 15 people asked Kortemeyer questions during the forum at Taylor Elementary School, 720 Seventh Ave. SW.

A few asked why Penford could not simply add a new bioprocessing venture in the plant’s existing footprint along the Cedar River, in space now taken up by the paper starch business. But no single area of the plant has the space for such a setup, Kortemeyer said.

The questions from the public centered on plant odors, emissions, aesthetics and compatibility with the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and Czech Village nearby.

Kortemeyer displayed charts that showed how plant emissions have declined over time. He cited Fire Chief Mark English and Steve Hershner, the city’s utilities environmental manager, who both said Penford had an “excellent record” of compliance with safety and discharge regulations.

Jon Bancks, an employee in downtown Cedar Rapids, asked about plant odors. Kortemeyer said any bioprocessing expansion will include fermentation, with what he described as a “sweet agricultural smell.”

Afterward, Bancks said the Quaker plant next to downtown also can put off smells, though most are cereal-like aromas. Corn-processing odor is less pleasant, he said.

James Adair, who lives two blocks from the plant, asked why Penford had not moved quickly after the Floods of 2008 to buy out damaged properties nearby for a place to expand. Kortemeyer said Penford and the city had briefly discussed the idea, but both parties had their hands full with more immediate demands.

Kortemeyer said Penford proposes to buy Riverside Park and pay to replace its dated skate park with a new one, as well as replacing the park’s ball diamond and playground.

Two more forums are planned this week: 7 p.m. Tuesday at CSPS, 1103 Third St. SE, and 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the boardroom at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, 424 First Ave. NE.

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