CHEYENNE - The wheels continue to turn on a project to construct a malting facility in Pine Bluffs.
Tuesday, the Laramie County Commission approved a contingency and development agreement for the malting plant, which is doing business as Wyoming Malting Company.
The agreement spells out responsibilities of the company, Cheyenne LEADS, the town of Pine Bluffs and Laramie County - all entities with varying degrees of involvement in the project.
Along with the revenue recapture plan and the facility operations and maintenance plan, the development agreement is part of the procedure to allow grant funds to be released from the Wyoming Business Council, paving the way for construction to begin.
"We're happy they took that step so the project keeps moving forward," said Chad Brown, one of the owners of Wyoming Malting. "That was a big step for us on Tuesday."
Wyoming Malting plans to operate a facility that will process grain into malt used in the production of beer and distilled spirits.
Most of the malt will be sold to other breweries and distilleries, but the company plans to keep some for its own use at an on-site distillery.
Originally, the company had planned to be open in September 2016, but that was contingent on breaking ground this month, which won't happen because the grant money has not been released.
In addition, because state funds are being used, the project will have to go through a bidding process.
Brown said the current plan is to break ground in the spring or early summer, and construction should take about nine months.
In October, the State Loan and Investment Board approved a $2.8 million grant and nearly $558,000 loan for the project.
The plant will be initially owned by Cheyenne LEADS and will be on a lease-to-own agreement with Wyoming Malting.
"We're building a fairly simple facility," said Anja Bendel, the director of business development for Cheyenne LEADS. "The building itself is pretty basic."
The building will sit on 10 acres of land to be purchased by LEADS from the town of Pine Bluffs.
The 10-acre parcel is part of a larger 318-acre piece of town-owned land north of the Union Pacific Railroad and just west of the Nebraska state line.
Although state money is being used to jumpstart the project, both the loan and grant will eventually be repaid through lease payments over 20 years.
The payments are graduated and max out at $201,749 annually in the seventh year of the lease and continue until the end of the lease.
Alternatively, Wyoming Malting could buy out the property at any time after the lease's fifth year.
Either way, the company will repay more than $3 million, which represents the grant, the loan and interest.
Cheyenne LEADS will oversee the repayment and distribute the lease payments to itself, the Cheyenne-Laramie County Economic Development Joint Powers Board and the Wyoming Business Council.
Wyoming Malting is in talks with brewers and distillers across the state to find outlets that want to buy its finished product.
Brown said he estimates the plant will generate enough product to cover between 60 and 65 percent of the malt demand in Wyoming.
He said his company plans to sell to Wyoming entities first, and then branch out into other markets, particularly Northern Colorado.
"We're definitely excited," he said.