Originally scheduled to take place at the site where construction will soon begin on a soybean processing facility, the ceremony was held at the Lilbourn Veterans of Foreign Wars hall due to rain.
The project began in 2003, according to Gary Branum, president of GRC.
"We've waited a long time for this to happen," he said. "This is good for farmers, this is good for Southeast Missouri."
Construction of the soybean processing facility is the first phase for the co-
Branum said the plant will provide a new market for agricultural products in the area.
At full capacity, the GRC plant will produce five million gallons of biodiesel per year and will ultimately crush three million bushels of soybeans per year.
B100-biodiesel, when blended into regular diesel, produces a cleaner-
burning fuel for trucks, farm tractors, and eventually other diesel engines, according to GRC officials.
"Biodiesel is the fuel of the future for now, for the next 75 years," said Peter Myers, treasurer for GRC.
Branum said the second phase of GRC's plan is to build a soybean crushing plant on the same site in Lilbourn within one or two years. "This thing keeps multiplying," he said.
The close proximity to a chicken processing plant will provide not only an abundant supply of chicken fat but also a ready market for the high-fat soybean meal produced by the soybean crushing plant planned for the second phase.
"This is going to create jobs," Branum said. "Southeast Missouri needs jobs."
The plant will have an initial labor force of 10 people which will increase to at least 35-40 workers when the crushing of soybeans takes place.
Dale Ludwig, executive director of the Missouri Soybean Association, offered "a special congratulations" and said the facility "will fundamentally change agriculture" in this area.
Ludwig said soybeans have always been grown for their protein, but for the next 75 years, farmers will also be growing soybeans for their oil. He said this is an opportunity for farmers to "capture some of the value" of their crops.
Myers said his wife, Mary, deserves a lot of the credit for the plant as it grew out of her Adopt-A-Farm Family of America program.
"She saw an opportunity to add value to soybeans," Myers said. "She has really worked hard on it."
The GRC is owned by its members, most of whom are local farmers and landowners.
About 85 people, including city and county officials, legislators and their representatives and local farmers and businessmen, attended the ceremony. When Branum asked shareholders for the facility to stand up and be recognized, well over half of the room came to their feet.
"This is a community effort," said Clyde Hawes, presiding county commissioner for New Madrid County.
Hawes said the plant is good not only for the co-op and Lilbourn, but also for the county and Southeast Missouri.
Dale Ray, mayor of Lilbourn, said a lot of people worked tirelessly behind the scenes to get the project up and running including state and federal legislators, the County Commission, Steve and Connie Duke from the Bootheel Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission at Malden, and city staff and officials.
Local banks also participated by providing financing to augment the investment by Missouri farmers to make the Great River Soy Processing Plant a reality, according to GRC officials.
"That is what is going to make it work: everybody working together," Branum said.
A Lilbourn businessman said he is pleased "to see this little community come back to life."