Now that we have the zoning and permit denial from the Planning and Zoning Commission, maybe it is time to ask these questions. What was the good that was supposed to come from this plant? How much financial benefit would the promoters expect to see?   Would the jobs and the straw purchase make a difference to our overall quality of life in Sumner County?  It looks like the nutrient replacement for the straw and the anticipated property tax abatement there would not be any real financial gain. We just have not heard anything in terms of the overall benefits of this plant and I just would like to know what they are if they actually exist.
There is no question the amount of money being brought into Sumner County is huge.  But what is the actual return on that investment for Sumner County?  What seems to come to the top of any explanation is that Mr. Northrup is only interested in his ability to make money.  If he can’t get the permit, water or concessions he needs, he is on down the road.  Numerous times, it has been stated, “If I can’t make money then I am not going to locate my plant here”.  No one really cares about how much money he can make.  It is just unfortunate the money he is making is yours and my tax dollars at work under the guise of improving our environment better known as reducing Green House Gas.  Oh, don’t forget how legal it all is due to Congressional approval to the EPA to attempt to reduce the GHG in the air we breathe.  The EPA seems to forget the growing plants are the best system available to sequester carbon in our soils and ultimately from the air.
Jobs are important to be sure.  Except that there are not enough workers for the jobs available.  If this project would have jobs available that would make the open jobs in the Wellington/Sumner Co. area approach the 100 mark for available jobs.  It seems we need more workers instead of more jobs.  With our sub 4% unemployment in this area, this proposed plant would be hard pressed to find skilled employees to fill the positions offered.  “They will move in from other states”, I was told by the Economic Development director.  Mr. Northrup has stated that he intends to stay in Michigan instead of moving to Kansas.  If the main person in the operation won’t move to Kansas why will anyone else want to move to Kansas to work here?
Then there is the tax abatement.  The County Commissioners seem to be content with giving away tax abatements in order to get any kind of industry to move into town.  If that is the case then, how about we expect something back from these new businesses?  So far, I have not heard of one community improvement action or other reciprocal effort from VNA.  I would hope that our elected leaders would have a plan to use any revenue for the quality of life in Sumner County.  Oh wait; there won’t be any revenue for 10 years if the abatements happen as promoted!   If this has been discussed, it is a very well-kept secret along with most of the other pertinent details for this proposed project.
There are numerous Sumner County residents that do not want the VNA plant to happen in our community.  It is not just a small group in the neighborhood that is being invaded by this project.  The folks that have been showing up to the Planning and Zoning hearings are from across the whole county.  This proposed project is not good for Sumner County.  Please call or write your local County Commissioner to vote NO on the approval of VNA plant in Sumner County.

Doug Hisken
Belle Plaine