Link Snacks to install gas pipeline to MinongThe 6-inch pipeline will come from a mainline station near Trego, about 14 miles to the south.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
Residents in Minong, Wis., soon could have a cheaper and more efficient option for heating and cooking in their homes, and “that’s exciting,” village President Lloyd Wallace said. Better yet, the cost of bringing a pipeline of natural gas will be paid for by the small town’s growing company, the Jack Link’s beef jerky empire.
Link Snacks Inc. announced Thursday that it plans to pay most of a $2.27 million project to bring natural gas service to its plant in Minong. The 6-inch pipeline will come from a mainline station near Trego, about 14 miles to the south. The two towns are just west of Hayward.
In a letter to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin submitted Tuesday, We Energies, the project contractor, said Link Snacks wants to increase its headquarters operation in Minong by 30 percent. The letter said switching to natural gas from liquid petroleum would create savings that would help the expansion. There are about 500 workers in Minong, the hometown of company founder Jack Link.
The companies would like to begin construction this spring and have the factory switched over by the end of the year. Service could reach village residents by spring 2014.
This isn’t the first pipeline project for Link Snacks. In December, a 19-mile pipeline to one of its factories was completed in Alpena, S.D., a town about the same size as Minong.
Link Snacks also paid for the majority of that $2 million project, and service will be going to homes this spring.
As it has done in Minong, Link Snacks has spent money on other infrastructure in Alpena, including $7 million in a 2012 expansion of the town’s wastewater treatment plant.
There isn’t expected to be much environmental review scrutiny of the Minong project because it has a low impact as the pipeline would run exclusively along established rights of way on Washburn County roads.
Wallace welcomes the opportunity to outfit Minong with natural gas. He said the village board met with the two companies in 2011 and a few times since then. The village board passed a resolution in October allowing We Energies to construct and maintain a natural gas supply.
“There are no financials,” Wallace said of the village input when it comes to getting the main line to the town. There will be infrastructure and hookup costs for residents and meetings in the near future on setting rates, Wallace said.
He said the reaction has been positive in the village. He expects 60 to 70 percent of residents to switch to natural gas. He said many currently are served by LP tanks.
“It’s basically because of the rates,” Wallace said of the attraction to natural gas.
Switching services in Minong would put a dent in the business of fuel transport companies like Duluth-based Como Oil and Propane, which serves the Minong area.
“It’s happening everywhere,” Como Chief Operating Officer Will Norman said of the allure of natural gas.
There has been a boom in natural gas exploration — most by the controversial method of fracking — in the U.S. in recent years, making its use attractive because of its price and efficiency.
Norman said his company will wait and see how things go in Minong, saying “communities will do what’s best for them.”
Aside from Minong and Alpena, Link Snacks has a facility in New Glarus, Wis., with more than 300 employees and an office with about two dozen employees in Minneapolis. The company has warehousing operations in Laurens and Underwood, Iowa, and more production facilities in Mankato, Minn., and Brazil and New Zealand.
Officials from Link Snacks did not respond to requests from the News Tribune for comment on the Wisconsin project but the company offered a news release Thursday.
Tom Myers, the corporate manager of sustainability, said the cost savings with natural gas wasn’t the only driver in the project.
“Natural gas is a cleaner fuel source and its use will reduce emissions of harmful greenhouse gases by an estimated 35 percent,” Myers said in the news release. He said the pipeline also will cut down on vehicles that transport fuel.
Troy Link, Link Snacks president, said it was important to invest in the small town where everything began for the company that supplies more than 60 percent of the jerky products consumed in the country. He said it was just as important that it invest in clean energy that offers a cost savings for Minong residents.
Rick Tebay, general manager at the Alpena facility, echoed Link in describing the project in South Dakota.
“Anytime we can save a little money and make an impact on our footprint on this planet, we want to do that,” Tebay said.
The Daily Republic in Mitchell, S.D., contributed to this report. The Daily Republic and the News Tribune are Forum Communications Co. newspapers.