Posing with members of the Onida Chamber of Commerce, Walt Wendland, Ringneck Energy Chief Executive Officer, cut the ribbon during a brief ceremony. Pictured are Cheri Wittler,Brenda Currier, Kim Wickum, Kelli Stephens, Lt. Governor Larry Rhoden Governor Kristi Noem, Wendland, Leann Weischedel, Trish Severson, Marileen Tilberg, Sarah Ramler and Hannah Warner.

In conjunction with a visit and tour of the Ringneck Energy ethanol plant by Governor Kristi Noem and Lt. Governor Larry Rhoden, the Onida Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the plant, officially welcoming Ringneck Energy to the business community.

Ringneck Energy Chairman, President and CEO Walt Wendland welcomed the two dignitaries and thanked them for coming for a tour of the ethanol plant. “They haven’t been to an ethanol plant for a while, and they’ve never seen an ethanol plant like this,” said Wendland. “We’re excited to show them the new technologies.”

Governor Noem opened her remarks by thanking the community for the beautiful weather following a “brutal spring and early summer.”

She reminded the gathered share holders and board of directors that she is a farmer from the northeastern part of the state by trade, and that Lt. Governor Rhoden is a western South Dakota rancher. “We’re the first farmer rancher pair running South Dakota,” said Noem. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a Governor and Lt. Governor that are both from agriculture in our background.”

Noem related that her administration has been following the project “for quite some time, so we were thrilled when the invitation came to come out, walk around, get a tour and see the process.”

Noem then thanked those gathered for investing in ethanol, an industry she has been investing in since taking over her family farm at the age of 21. “This plant and the new technology and processes is really unique and special, and it really is going to lead us into the future of renewable fuels.” “I really believe our state should lead the nation,” said Noem in regards to ethanol use and investing. “We’re small, our number one industry is agriculture, and that biofuels is our future.” Noem also hinted at forthcoming announcements regarding bio fuels.

Noem says that she sees value added agriculture as the key to giving the next generation an opportunity to stay in South Dakota.

Rhoden related that he had worked with Bob Yackley to get an ethanol plant going in Central South Dakota more than a decade ago, and that he was glad to see a plant getting built here now.

It was on an ethanol plant tour with then President George W. Bush in 2001 that Noem and Rhoden first became acquainted.

“Kristi was sharing her story, and she said, ‘I’ve got two children and one on the way,’” said Rhoden, “and the President said, ‘I noticed that,’ to dead silence” that President Bush would remark on an obviously pregnant Noem. But the President recovered, saying, “‘I noticed that glow on your face.’”

“Larry thought that was hilarious and he laughed loudest in the room, and I thought ‘I don’t know who that is, but I’m going to get to know him,’ so our relationship and friendship kind of started at an ethanol plant.” said Noem.

Noem stated that during the tour she had been asked what Ringneck could do for her administration. She laid out several ways that the success of Ringneck Energy could be helpful in growing value added agriculture in South Dakota, including through the success of the plant; educating consumers about old, inaccurate information regarding ethanol; and making ethanol byproducts such as distillers grains available to cattle ranchers. “We do ethanol better than any other state in the country,” said Noem. “We can feed you, we can fuel you, and we can do it better than any other fuel source that you can get from anywhere in the world. We have to continue to tell the story.”