Minden story offers important cautionary tale

Thursday, April 20, 2006

McCook has had a lot of good economic news lately, with an ethanol plant at Perry closer to reality and groundbreaking for one at Cambridge planned for Monday, a helicopter kit company gearing up for production and the possibility of airplane kits being produced. A software development company is expanding, and a housing rehabilitation project is in progress.

McCook has had some success over the years, but economic development officials know that providing capital for start-up operations is risky, and any business is only as good as its profits.

An ethanol plant near Sutherland is in full operation now, but only after years of bankruptcy, lawsuits and other troubles.

And on Wednesday came word of a sad business failure in Minden, where the Nu Vu hydroponic tomato greenhouse has closed. A sign on the door offers tomatoes free for the taking.

Build for $5.8 million as Plains Produce in 2002, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2004 with assets of $5.1 million and liabilities of $6 million. It also owes about $229,000 in property taxes, $550,000 to a bank, $250,000 to the state's economic development department and $100,000 to the Dutch company that built it. In addition, it has not been making $11,607 monthly lease payments for the last four months, according to an affidavit.

We don't pretend to know all the particulars of raising tomatoes, other than the idea of locally grown, vine-ripened produce makes our mouths water.

But we do know the grocery business operates on a slim profit margin, and it can be difficult to persuade consumers to pay more than they have to, even for a better product.

We hope the greenhouse can be put back into operation as a profitable venture. Meanwhile, it serves as important cautionary tale for those involved in establishing a new enterprise.

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