What do the Internet, microchips, and GPS units have in common?
Give up? They’re all great ideas that have changed modern life as we know it, and they all began with the public and private sector working together.
At GreenWhey Energy, we certainly don’t put ourselves in the same league as these life-altering inventions, but we do think our waste-to-energy model is a pretty smart idea. And the truth is, just like those inventions, the state of the art facility we’re building today wouldn’t have been possible without the help of programs at the state, federal, and local level.
We’re talking about programs like Focus on Energy. When we first set out seeking financing for our anaerobic digestion facility, we faced a common reaction from banks and investment firms. “Neat idea,” they said, “but where’s the proof it will actually work like you say it will?”
That’s where Focus on Energy stepped in. Seeing potential in our idea, the State of Wisconsin-run energy efficiency program granted our start-up the funds needed to conduct a feasibility study. The study, performed by professional engineers and utilizing hard data, allowed us to prove that our idea was not only “neat,” but economically viable.
In other words, this thing could work, and we had a document produced by leading experts to prove it. Our project wouldn’t have moved an inch further without it.
Later on, when sources of funding were running short, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. stepped in to provide bridge financing. The $3.4 million loan they granted through the State Energy Program was originally financed through federal stimulus funds, and it allowed us to keep going when our project was all but stalled. It was a key example of public and private enterprise working together to help turn a good idea into reality.
On the local level, the Village of Turtle Lake granted us the land needed to build our facility. Without their help, we wouldn’t be located in Turtle Lake today to serve the wastewater management needs of area cheese factories and soy processors.
As our project nears completion, we think it’s important to acknowledge the many public investments that were there to keep us going when we needed them most. These weren’t the caricatured examples of agencies throwing money at the latest boondoggle; They provided just the boost we needed to make a sustainable business model happen in an economic climate unfriendly to untested projects and new ideas.
We’re certainly not the only ones that have benefited. Key investments in research and innovative start-ups like our own are the main reason the use of renewable energy is surging in the United States, helping to lower our carbon emissions, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and ultimately, power the future.
GreenWhey Energy is just one local example of these important partnerships at work. There are countless similar projects out there just waiting to happen.
By working together, we can continue to make them possible.