- Associated Press - Sunday, May 21, 2017

BLAIR, Neb. (AP) - A Danish bioscience business plans to invest $36 million in its eastern Nebraska plant, saying the company is counting on the ethanol industry’s continued growth.

Half a dozen new hires could be added to the workforce of about 125 people as a result of the expansion, the Omaha World-Herald (http://bit.ly/2qwe4UH ) reported.

Kyle Nixon, general manager of Novozymes’ Blair plant, said that within a few weeks the plant will increase by half fermentation capacity of enzymes that ethanol plants use to squeeze more starch from each kernel of corn.

“We are very optimistic,” Nixon said. “There is nowhere else that can do this.”

While Novozymes doesn’t make ethanol itself, its enzymes - molecules acting on other molecules to create chemical reactions - allow ethanol plants like the one in Blair to get more ethanol per kernel.

Success in the ethanol industry has made Blair something of a bio-agriculture hub after Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. built an ethanol plant in the city about two decades ago. The town has about 8,000 residents.

“I’ve got the easiest mayoral seat in the state,” Blair Mayor Jim Realph said. “I’ve got more jobs than people.”

Ethanol, an alcohol-based fuel, is the standard additive that gas companies use to boost octane in clear formulations. That leads to the common E10, which has 10 percent ethanol. Many other countries have been importing U.S. ethanol to use as a solution to their air pollution problems.

“This is how we grow Nebraska,” Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts said. “These are great, high-paying, high-skill jobs, and this is a great commitment to our biosciences industry.”

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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