The business park the city of Silver Bay acquired in 1993 is finally filling up.
Victus Farm has joined AmericInn on the property, which the city now calls its eco-industrial business park. The new farm, a collaboration with the University of Minnesota Duluth, will provide jobs as well as local food and energy for the region.
"This really was a big effort," Lana Fralich, Silver Bay city administrator, said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony that took place on Sunday. She thanked the City Council and officials for their foresight in bringing in local jobs for future generations.
The farm is a combination of new technologies. The process starts with fish, tilapia to be exact, grown in large tanks. Next is the greenhouse that holds produce and algae. The fish will provide nutrients for the plants and the plants will oxygenate the water for the fish.
The algae will be made into biofuel, the tilapia will be sold to Harley Tofte, operator of Dockside Fish Market in Grand Marais, and the produce will be sold locally.
Ellen Anderson, adviser to Gov. Mark Dayton, made the trip to Silver Bay for the ceremony. She addressed a crowd of more than 100.
"Local foods and local energy means local jobs and local economic prosperity," Anderson said.
The story started in 1993, when the city purchased land for a business park from Lake County.
"Since the early 2000s, we've tried to make it work," Silver Bay Mayor Scott Johnson said.
The city courted many businesses, but AmericInn was the only one they could convince, until now.
The city began discussions with the Center for Sustainable Community Development at UMD more than three years ago and held the groundbreaking ceremony for the facility in October 2011.
"This is exactly the innovative, important project UMD should be involved with in the 20th century," said Susan Maher, dean at the UMD College of Liberal Arts.
The city and Lake County, supplemented by numerous local and state grants, supplied the $1.3 million needed for the farm.
The first grant of $300,000 came from the Minnesota Legislature. Fralich and Mike Mageau of the CSCD at UMD did their best to stretch their money, Fralich said.
All the construction labor was local. City crews did the prep work, Lakeside Masonry did the concrete work and Ray Riihiluoma Inc. completed most of the construction. WoodMaster, a local biomass company, supplied the pellet boilers that will heat the facility and water.
The final step will be the installation of a wind turbine near the water tower to power the facility. The city is in the process of finalizing the agreement.
The city hopes to expand the eco-industrial business park to include a pellet manufacturing facility that can feed the boilers at Victus Farm, Fralich said. The nearest pellet facility is in Hayward, Wis.
The farm will bolster the local economy and serve UMD, too, Mageau said. The site will be used for education, research and as proof that a system like Victus Farm can work in a small community like Silver Bay.
"This has really been an amazing project," Mageau said. "Silver Bay has been by far one of the best communities to work with."
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