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Work with farm women honored

Rep. Ryan talks about the economy

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Delavan manufacturer closing

Better e-mail address for Dan Plutchak

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

The global economy comes to Sharon

I've never had a hard time finding parking in downtown Sharon before. But a week ago, on Nov. 24, the street outside the village hall was as packed with cars as the room inside was packed with local residents.

They were there to hear about a proposal to build an ethanol plant just outside the village.

As Mike Heine describes in this week's cover story, the plant will be one of the biggest in the state and is just the latest in what appears to be a boom in ethanol production in this part of the state.

While the presentation focused on why Sharon was good for an ethanol plant and why an ethanol plant would be good for Sharon, the ripple effect of this project could remake the agriculture economy in Walworth County.

For example, what would an ethanol plant do to the price of soy sauce?

Jeffrey Knight, one of the partners in Global Renewable, LLC, made the pitch that the increased demand for corn would improve the price farmers would get for corn in the area.

However, many area farmers provide soybeans to the Kikkoman soy sauce plant in Walworth. If farmers switch from beans to corn, will that drive up the price of beans?

And what about growing capacity? As we all know, land is at a premium in Walworth County. I doubt we'll ever see non-agricultural land returned to productive farmland to grow corn, but will the increased demand for corn help preserve the farmland in production that we already have?

Knight says the finished product from the plant is destined for East Coast markets. The market for bio fuels, however, is growing even in our own back yards.

Coincidentally, I found out that I've been a potential ethanol customer for years, although I didn't know it until last weekend.

I was filling up my wife's minivan at the gas station, when I noticed the label on the gas cap. It's a flex fuel vehicle.

That means I can fill the tank with either unleaded gas or E85 fuel, which is a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent unleaded.

We've had the vehicle for five years, and I never noticed it would run on ethanol. It also gives me another alternative fuel option while I consider a veggie car conversion (See "Vegetation Transportation" in the Oct. 29 edition.)

Realistically, large facilities like this are rarely embraced unanimously.

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson, another partner in the company, alluded to as much in his remarks.

After all the planning and meetings are done, if the community doesn't want the plant, "we'll go somewhere else," Thompson said.

So residents and community leaders need to apply the lessons that other communities learned after deciding on ethanol projects of their own.

I'm guessing it's a good time to be in farming in Walworth County, although with any economic shift, there are winners and losers.

Let's hope that with good planning and the commitment to the community that the partners in Global Renewable expressed, that Walworth County will be one of the winners.

~Dan Plutchak
Editor


Post continued HERE

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Idyllic Elkhorn preserved in '50s TV program





The Christmas card displays have returned to the courthouse square in downtown Elkhorn, a reminder of the city's prominence as the Christmas Card Town.

The brightest spotlight may have shone on our county seat in the 1950s.

If there was a poster city for idyllic, small-town middle America, Elkhorn was it.

As contributing writer and former editor of The Week Herb Moering reports in this week's cover story, Elkhorn's fame was born through the paintings of artist Cecile Johnson.

Johnson had painted the scenes she had noticed during a visit to the city in the early 1950s.

Then, in 1958 several of the paintings were reproduced in the December issue of Ford Times magazine, bringing national attention to Elkhorn.

The city had already gained national prominence from a March of Time documentary about Elkhorn that was broadcast on national television in 1952.

We've posted an excerpt of the broadcast here, and it's fascinating to watch, even 54 years later.

Stars of the program include Elkhorn Independent editor Mud Eames, shown making the rounds of downtown Elkhorn looking for news tips for his column.

(Moering, by the way, was editor of the Elkhorn Independent until joining The Week in the early 1980s, making him another in a distinguished succession of editors at the Independent.)

Many of the landmarks and businesses mentioned in the 1952 film are still with us today.

Elkhorn Chemical is mentioned, along with both the Getzen and Holton band instrument companies. At the time, Frank Holton was the biggest factory in the area, employing 165 workers.

The high school band, under the direction of Ted Binger, who also leads the Elkhorn city band, is in rehearsal for the Christmas show.

The program pays a visit to the home contractor Robert Magill, along with his wife, Mary Jane and two children, Kirk and Diane.

And be sure to check out the landmarks downtown. The building that is now Moy's can be seen on the corner of Walworth and Wisconsin streets.

There's also a shot of the old courthouse-no, not the one that's downtown now, but the one that preceded that.

Times do change, and a few things in the program didn't ring a bell. For example, the new agricultural school, which was to be built the following year. Does anyone remember what happened to that school?

If you do, you can add your comments here.

In the meantime, check out the program online to see how much has changed and how much has really stayed the same.

~Dan Plutchak, editor


Post continued HERE

Friday, November 10, 2006

How can Whitewater bridge the divide?

When Whitewater police, along with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, raided Star Packaging on Aug. 8, it left a Hispanic community wondering if local authorities had more in mind than preserving the peace.

As reporter Mike Heine found out while investigating the raid and its aftermath, there are different perceptions in the community of the outcome.

Heine's four-part report, Broken trust, investigated:

--How the raid led to suspicion in the Hispanic Community

--How police have stood by their actions and how they say they've been misinterpreted

--The lure of immigration and its effects

--How identity theft led to the investigation

Latinos are increasingly suspicious of local police, community leaders say. On the other had, outreach efforts that police had been undertaking long before the raid have taken a step backward.

Both groups are searching for ways to bridge the divide, but it will certainly take time.


Post continued HERE

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