Grand Forks gives initial nod to Chinese corn milling plant

February 23, 2022 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The Grand Forks City Council has given initial approval to a Chinese company’s proposed $700 million corn-milling facility that officials say could be the largest private sector investment in the community’s history.

The council approved a development agreement with a subsidiary of Fufeng Group Ltd. Tuesday that allows the project to move forward with financing and permitting, City Administrator Todd Feland said.

Construction on the project could begin later this year, he said.

The Chinese agribusiness picked an approximately 370-acre (150-hectare) site in Grand Forks’ agri-business park last year. The facility is expected to initially require 25 million bushels of corn annually.

Grand Forks will invest more than $96 million for the project’s water, wastewater and other infrastructure needs, using state, federal and local grants, Feland said. The money would be recouped in time from utility rates and special assessments and other fees paid by Fufeng, he said.

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Fufeng makes products for the animal nutrition, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, health and wellness, oil and gas, and other industries. It’s a leading producer of xanthan gum. This will be its first U.S.-based manufacturing facility, Feland said.

It would be second such facility in the state, he said. Minnesota-based Carghill operates a plant in Wahpeton, in southeastern North Dakota.

The project has drawn concerns from locals over water, air and traffic impacts — and even security worries because of the Chinese-owned plant’s proximity to the Grand Forks Air Force base, Feland said Wednesday.

Permitting for the project will address environmental impacts and “to date, there is no concern from a national security perspective,” Feland said.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has endorsed the project.

“Adding value to our corn and other raw commodities is critical to North Dakota’s long-term economic success, and this value-added project represents a huge opportunity for producers and workers in the Grand Forks area and our entire state,” Burgum said in a statement.

Construction is expected to employ up to 1,000 workers for up to three years, and more than 750 new jobs in the region once completed, officials said.