State officials announcing support for Grafton's planned Asian carp plant
GRAFTON (MCT) – State officials will gather at the city's riverfront Thursday to announce the state's support for a long-planned Asian carp fish processing plant, small industrial court, dredging and the city's flood buyout program.
The event takes place at 11 a.m. at the Lighthouse Park in Grafton, near the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. There will be a reception following at The Loading Dock in Grafton.
American Heartland Fish Products LLC, based in Grafton, made it known more than a year ago that it would build a fish processing plant in Grafton off Illinois Route 3, where the city annexed land about two years ago. The company's local and Asian investors, along with representatives of its business partner, Falcon Protein of Birmingham, Ala., also will elaborate Thursday on their immediate plans for the fish processing plant expected to break ground soon.
Several of the plant's Chinese investors will visit the town for the second time in less than three weeks for Thursday's event. A trio of Asian consultants working with American Heartland Fish Products surveyed the Illinois River on May 25 for the abundance of Asian carp in Grafton and enlightened local investors on packaging for an Asian market.
Exporting to China will enhance revenues for American Heartland Fish Products, improve Grafton's tax base, create more permanent jobs in the region and help control inland waterways' Asian carp populations. Many fishermen and boaters consider Asian carp a dangerous nuisance because of the species' prolific population and how they jump from the water, sometimes hitting people and landing in fishing boats.
Grafton residents Gray Magee, Ben Allen, Bryon LeBeau and Oliver Ready make up American Heartland Fish Products, formerly known as Inland Fisheries Processing and Marketing Research Center. Last November, the group closed on a building and land, which is approximately 13 acres within 237 acres of land along Illinois Route 3 annexed into Grafton last year.
Last year, a pending agreement already existed between Grafton's group and China State Farms to supply from Grafton 35 million pounds of Asian carp over three years. The plant would supply China with 10 million pounds of Asian carp in the first and second years and 15 million pounds in the third year.
"It's looking good in negotiations with China State Farms to finalize a long-term supply agreement with exporting Asian carp to China," Magee said last fall.
Magee, an international businessman, prompted negotiations with the Chinese through his business connections. The state of Illinois has reacted slowly to American Heartland Fish Products' request for financing and already granted Pike County's Big River Fish Corp., in Pearl, $2.2 million in 2010 to export 30 million pounds of Asian carp over an undetermined amount of years.
Grafton's group worked with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to try to obtain financing through grants or low-interest loans. Magee also said last fall that their talks with IDCEO looked positive. The IDCEO, which will have representatives at Thursday's event, seeks to help businesses come to the state that supply jobs and revenue.
"It will let us create many permanent jobs - not temporary - for the area, and it will also revitalize the commercial fishing industry for this area and improve the tax structure for the city, county, state and federal government," Magee said last fall about the fish plant.
American Heartland Fish Products' long-term goal is to develop a value-added U.S. consumer fish product from Asian carp as well as an animal feed product in conjunction with Falcon Protein.
©2012 The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.)
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