• New facility to be built in city’s eastside industrial park
BROOKINGS – The Brookings Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) has won a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to help create an agricultural technology center here, it was announced Monday.
The Economic Development Administration grant will help fund a $2 million technology commercialization facility in the city’s Telkamp Industrial Park, Al Heuton, BEDC executive director, said this week.
And, Heuton noted, the center already has its first tenants, an aquaculture business and an alternative biofuels program.
The BEDC, which will be sole owner of the facility, was joined in seeking the federal grant by a private venture capital firm, South Dakota Innovation Partners (SDIP).
Heuton said the Agriculture Technology Center for Rural Enterprise will consist of a 30,000-square-foot steel building, to be located on city-owned land south of Falcon Plastics in Brookings’ eastside industrial park.
About 5,000 square feet of the building will be dedicated to office space, conference rooms and light laboratories, but the rest of the space will remain open warehouse, to be configured as tenants choose.
The building will be located in the industrial park chiefly to satisfy the aquaculture business’s need for large quantities of groundwater.
The BEDC director said that pending the EDA’s go-ahead, bids for the facility will probably be let this fall.
With the foundations laid, the building exterior could be enclosed before winter, and the structure could be ready for occupancy by late spring.
A key strategy of the Brookings Economic Development Corporation has been to foster growth in agriculture-based science and technology, capitalizing especially on the ongoing research at South Dakota State University.
The community has an abundance of facilities – both public and private – to support that research, Heuton said, “but what we’ve been lacking is a facility to help researchers scale up their ideas to commercial production. That’s what this facility will accomplish.”
According to the EDA’s announcement, “the center will house pilot-scale validation projects to commercialize public and private sector research, providing a broad range of commercialization services to small and medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs.
“The facility is designed to bridge the gap between university research and business development to boost the region’s growing aquaculture and alternative biofuels clusters.”
Initial tenants will be Prairie AquaTech, now housed in the city’s Resource and Technology Center near the Swiftel Center, and Cyanosun Energy.
Prairie AquaTech, headed by SDSU researcher Michael Brown, is developing soybean- and corn-based products that replace fish meal as an aquaculture food.
Cyanosun Energy is a biochemical and biofuels development company, using byproducts and waste products at existing ethanol plants to create new, high-value drop-in fuels and chemicals. SDSU’s Bill Gibbons heads that startup.
Both businesses need the space to ramp up their enterprises to market readiness, Heuton said, and that’s what the ag tech center will permit them to do.
The two operations should nearly fill the space at the new center, Heuton said, and both will likely be tenants for up to three years.
Heuton said in developing the ag tech center grant proposal, he worked closely with Mark Leucke, CEO and managing director of SDIP, which is fostering a number of research startups in the region.
BEDC applied for the grant last September and received a preliminary approval in January.
Besides the EDA grant, Vision Brookings has agreed to contribute $250,000 toward the project, and the Governor’s Office for Economic Development has tentatively agreed to provide $100,000 in support. In addition, Heuton said, a possible state REDI loan and local lenders will provide the balance of the cost of the building.
Heuton says BEDC will purchase the land for the tech center from the city, which has already partnered with the group as a guarantor for some of the project funding.
There are a number of other organizations participating in the funding of the research and the center.
South Dakota Innovation Partners is an early stage venture capital firm focused on technology commercialization. The company has offices in Brookings and Sioux Falls.
Contact Ken Curley at kcurley@-brookingsregister.com.