April 06, 2020

Duo’s ethanol startup on hold Pair to fund project through new firm

MILLINOCKET – Two businessmen hoping to start an ethanol production facility in the Katahdin region have formed a construction company that they hope will generate seed money that will allow them to continue their ethanol plans, they said Monday.

Chris Jandreau and Rob McNally of Millinocket have formed MJM Construction of Millinocket to earn a living and to raise about $60,000 for a feasibility study that, when completed, will allow them to finish their business plan and lead to the eventual construction of an ethanol facility.

“We were trying to apply for grants,” Jandreau said. “It was a lot of red tape. We haven’t worked on it [the ethanol plan] in a couple months, really. It has come to a standstill.”

“We’re not even a third of the way yet,” McNally said of the pair’s fundraising efforts.

In January 2005, Jandreau began creating a 30-foot-tall pilot plant and 300-gallon reactor that used potatoes, wheat, corn and other farm-waste products to create 160- to 200-proof ethanol fuel. The plant at his family’s Iron Bridge Road greenhouse just outside town produced 83 gallons of ethanol per ton of wheat and 32 gallons of ethanol per ton of waste potatoes, he said.

He mixed his ethanol with gasoline on the premises and used the product to power his 1999 Plymouth sedan.

Jandreau, who described his initial ethanol work as more of a hobby than a fledgling Maine industry, suspended ethanol production for want of seed money and because they need to make a living. They thereby discovered a harsh reality of manufacturing in North America – it’s isn’t always enough to have a good idea or to create something from one.

“It all comes down to having money up front,” McNally said Monday. “You need the feasibility study and seed money to get grants or loans that would allow you to go further.”

They have gotten some help from local and state officials, they said, but nothing that has led to that money.

Millinocket Area Growth and Investment Council Executive Director Bruce McLean initially was helpful and promised more help when the two figure out their business plan, McNally said. MAGIC is a quasi-public economic development agency tasked with helping fledgling businesses in East Millinocket, Medway and Millinocket to grow.

“We haven’t really consulted with them much. We just haven’t gone that route yet,” McNally said of MAGIC. “We have not yet been approached by them. They told Chris a long time ago to call if he needs them.”

Town Manager Eugene Conlogue and Rep. Herbert E. Clark, D-Millinocket, also have worked with Jandreau to help him find grant opportunities.

Until money comes through, they said, they will continue with their construction firm, they said.

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