I-35 BioVillage Concept Gains Momentum in North Iowa
The BioVillage continues to gain momentum as Board Members of Biovillage USA LLC meet with potential land owners and BioVillage vendors. Tom Hurd, President of BioVillage USA says, "We have met with some key vendors and have more meetings scheduled."
By winter of 2010-11, the group anticipates beginning to raise funds. It hopes to capitalize on several recent American trends and interest changes:
- Natural and Organic foods
- Bio- and other renewable fuels
Iowa’s BioVillage will have parks, trails, open green spaces, bio-gardens; a grocery/convenience store that heavily relies on local and organic foods; fuel station (E-10, E-85, biodiesel, electricity, hydrogen, ammonia, etc.); displays and educational events about topics related to sustainability and green; multi-class motel and convention center, recreational vehicle grounds; a performing arts center; residential areas, a lake and small detention ponds; and retail space are all part of the vision. Plans call for a ring of eight wind turbines and a field of at least 50 solar trackers, which will feed a state of the art energy storage system to then power the facility.
All-in-all, the BioVillage will cover nearly 40 acres. With a circular flow to the village design, a 300-foot diameter center will make up a central park, and a main building ring will be 600 feet in diameter. The project timetable targets land purchase in spring of 2011.
Hurd along with Vice President Bob Cole, retired ISU Extension Community and Economic Development Specialist; and Secretary Jack Leaman, Landscape Architect and Community Planner, are all founders of BioVillage USA LLC. The BioVillage group has continually worked with Ag Ventures Alliance, a regional business group that supports agriculture businesses in their start-up and investment drives. Ag Ventures helped them to secure a $12,000 Value Added Producer Grant in 2003 to further study the idea. Cole and Hurd are both Board members of Ag Ventures Alliance.
Two corporations have emerged to operate the BioVillage: 1) BioVillage Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit corporation, which will run all non-business aspects of the project and be responsible for open and community space of the village; and 2) BioVillage Cooperative; an Iowa 501A Cooperative for profit corporation, to own and operate the business aspects of the BioVillage.
The Foundation will be in charge of educational programming, food processing kitchen, open spaces, parks and gardens, performing arts area and public access areas. Cole said the goal is to have "everything be educational, anything we can do towards green, sustainability education".
The Iowa 501A Cooperative, BioVillage Cooperative, consists of two groups of coop members: 1) traditional cooperative patronage members, who receive their benefits from the business they conduct with the BioVillage; and 2) investors, who receive their returns through dividends, much like an LLC.
The initial fund drive will begin in early 2011, "We want to raise at least $2.5 Million and leverage it with loans and other funding sources to fund phase I, land purchase, grocery store, fuel station, build residential housing area and establish an RV park", Cole said.
"This will be a place where nearly everything is sustainable, utilizes recycled materials... or other green design" Leaman said. An example is the plan to include park benches made of recycled milk jugs by a company in Iowa Falls. Foods available, if not organic, will be source verified and available at a year-round farmers market.
Hurd estimated the total project investment at between $25 and $35 million. "We are looking at grants that are available for wind projects, solar panels and the like".
The BioVillage may eventually translate to something much larger, according to Cole. The group has created the national company, BioVillage USA LLC, to franchise or expand elsewhere. "This could become a movement."
The BioVillage Foundation has been building interest through an annual event - BioFest - that began in 2005 and recently has been held in Mason City. Approximately 500 people have been attending the festival annually. Cole said there has been standing room only for the presentations on green topics.
"People are very interested," added Hurd. We are looking for strategic partners, but want to maintain ownership and the integrity of the project. This is an earthy, agricultural, rural, green concept. The whole thing is built on that."
Further information can be obtained by contacting Hurd at: BioVillage USA/Spatial Designs, 524 Village Green Dr., Mason City, IA 50401 USA; phone 641-423-6395, email: firstname.lastname@example.org .