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Economic Development Works for Small Agribusiness: Helping Inland Cape Rice Company Expand Its Value Chain

With help from Ameren Missouri and numerous economic development entities, Inland Cape Rice Company successfully opened a new processing facility in the Cape Girardeau, Missouri, area. Ameren Missouri’s Economic Development electric rate incentive, along with grants and assistance from numerous other entities, propelled the project.

The Vision

Sam Schneider, founder of the Inland Cape Rice Company, grew up in the Cape Girardeau area, and wanted to chart new directions for his family farm just across the Mississippi River in McClure, Illinois. Watching the sustainable agriculture, farm-to-table movement gaining traction, Mr. Schneider wanted to reshape his family farm business by forming Inland Cape Rice Company in 2019 to grow and market rice, a crop that has made inroads in southeastern Missouri and southwestern Illinois along the Mississippi River, where both water and fertile soil are plentiful.

Inland Cape Rice enjoyed early success as “the only American grown rice farm, family owned and operated by actual health and nutrition experts.” The company’s rice products are sold wholesale and as branded rice products offered at retail locations in Missouri, Kansas and Illinois.

As a next step, Mr. Schneider wanted to participate in more of the value chain by opening a mill nearby in Missouri to process rice grown on his company’s Illinois farms. Mr. Schneider also wanted to support the economy and workforce in the Cape Girardeau area while growing his company’s sales and marketing footprint.

Getting Expansion Underway

Mr. Schneider was methodical and thorough about getting a good start on what would become the Inland Cape Rice Mill. He assembled project planning and grant support from a number of entities, including the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority and the Missouri Works program. He worked closely with his alma mater, Southeast Missouri State University, and its Missouri Small Business Development Center, to develop a feasibility study and business plan to support grant applications. He also connected with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Value-Added Producer Grant, and the HUBZone program of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

How Ameren Missouri Got Involved

It’s common to think of economic development in terms of large industrial projects in major population centers. But economic development entities from the federal level to individual state organizations and their stakeholder partners also have a very strong interest in the growth and diversification of rural economies. So, when Inland Cape Rice approached their Regional Account Executive from Ameren Missouri, Ameren was ready to help.

Stepping in With a Powerful Economic Development Electric Rate Incentive

To support the project, Ameren Missouri assembled a team composed of a Regional Account Executive, its Operations team, and its Economic Development business unit. In addition to supplying the assistance Ameren could offer, this team was able to coordinate effectively with the other business and economic development agencies Mr. Schneider had engaged.

This project qualified for Ameren Missouri’s Economic Development Incentive (version previously available), which provided a 40% average electric base rate discount over a five-year period. This incentive program has been very successful at helping businesses succeed with growth or expansion projects with significant energy costs savings during their startup years.

Ameren also helped with line extension and connection, as well as introductions to its other programs such as energy efficiency and electrification.

A Success for Agricultural Business Development and Growth

This project is an excellent example of how Ameren Missouri can provide significant value to projects where the goal is to help smaller agricultural businesses grow and support rural communities and economies.

The new Inland Cape Rice Mill opened in Scott City, Missouri in April 2022, just two years after planning began. The mill is expected to employ 10 full time people, with a 485 kW project load, and 2.3M kW used annually.

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