Rep. Brian Stewart Weekly Column: Passion and taking risks equal more Northern Illinois Successes

In 1790, United States Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton founded the Revenue Marine which was renamed the Revenue Cutter Service in the 1860s. In 1848 collaboration between private citizens and the US government created the United States Life Saving Service to save the lives of the victims of shipwrecks. In 1915, the two agencies were combined to form the United States Coast Guard. 

We honor the Coast Guard on August 4th, National Coast Guard Day. Take a moment this Saturday to think about the men and women in our Coast Guard and their brave service.

Northern Illinois County Fairs are in full swing. This weekend, folks can enjoy Fairs in Ogle County (Oregon, Illinois) and Jo Daviess County (Warren, Illinois). Next week is the Carroll County Fair in Milledgeville, Illinois.

If you have never been to a County Fair, they are definitely worth the price of admission. It is more than the pork chop sandwiches and elephant ears, though both are definitely delicious. At a County Fair we have the chance to learn about our friends and neighbors, to see the livestock theyve raised, the vegetables theyve grown, to watch them in tractor pulls and other events. I agree with the old saying, Theres something that feels so all-American about a County Fair.

Over the past few weeks we have been discussing local economic engines and celebrating their unique achievements. Today, I will share the last two success stories we visited with Erika Harold.

Motivational author, Jamie Notter, wrote, Innovation is change that unlocks new value. In the mid-1990s, Pearl City Elevator, a full service agricultural cooperative, and the Adkins Energy Cooperative understood the need to add value to corn for local producers. They decided to team up, forming Adkins Energy LLC, and began processing corn by 2002.

We received a tour of Adkins Energy facilities from Plant Manager, Jason Townsend. Since the facility opened, it has processed over 225 million bushels of corn. Townsend told us that Adkins Energy produces about 60 million gallons of ethanol each and every year. The next time you put gas in your car or truck, take a look at the octane sticker on the pump. Most if not all of them will say 10% ethanol added.

Ethanol is a domestic renewable fuel that serves as a high quality octane enhancer made from corn. It reduces air pollution and improves a vehicles performance.

Adkins Energy also produces biodiesel from corn. Biodiesel is not an additive like ethanol. Its a domestic, renewable fuel that burns cleaner than petroleum diesel fuel in a standard diesel engine, no engine modifications needed. The plant produces 2 million gallons of biodiesel a year.

Adkins also produces dried and wet distillers grains. Wet and dried distillers grains are the primary byproduct of ethanol production and serve as a high value feed additive for dairy and beef cattle. The plant produces upwards of 100,000 tons of wet and dried distillers grains each year.

Townsend said that Adkins continues to be innovative. They are constantly looking for ways to be more efficient and to organically increase production. The next time youre driving down Route 20 and see the ethanol plant, imagine how many trucks and train cars go through each year to transport millions of gallons of ethanol and biodiesel.

At the end of our day, we visited Freeports, Nationwide Inbound Inc. Twenty years ago, answering services were antiquated and needed updating. Nationwide Inbound started simple, providing a single-seat answering service using contemporary technology to local customers. Through continuous innovation, and the hard work and dedication of its staff, Nationwide Inbound has flourished into a full service contact center.

Nationwide Inbounds business has expanded immensely over the years serving hundreds of companies across more than 50 industries in North America. Its greatest challenge is similar to the challenges other businesses we visited face, finding more exceptional people to continue to provide excellent service and grow the business.

There were two common themes in each of the places we visited. First, there was passion. It was passion that drove Dave Thompson to keep learning about eggs and eventually open Pearl Valley Eggs. You could see passion on Doug Blocks face as he drove us around his farm, talking about its history and planning for its future. You could see passion on Ron Lawfers face as he showed us one of the robotic milkers. These folks love what they do.

Second, they took risks. Pearl City Elevator and Adkins Energy Cooperative took a risk forming one of the few cooperatively owned ethanol plants in the country. The folks at Lena Brewing Company took a risk, choosing to start a business they werent familiar with and pursue something they truly wanted to do. Jodi Miller took a risk, changing Union Dairys menu and the quality of its food in an established business thats been around for over a 100 years. Steven Chesney took a risk, building vending machines in his garage and turning it into an international business. I took a risk, seeing there was a need for improved local answering services and started a small business.

I believe Northern Illinois is full of passionate people who are willing to take risks. As a State Representative, I believe we need common sense solutions to help grow our economy and help these passionate people build businesses and create jobs.

I believe it was Albert Einstein who said, We cannot solve a problem by using the same kind of thinking when we created them. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Springfield to shift our focus to common sense solutions for our economy during the Veto Session.

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.

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