TORONTO, Ont. — Ken Field had a vision to turn corn into fuel and it has garnered him the nod as one of the country’s top entrepreneurs.
Field is the chairman of Commercial Alcohols Inc., and was named Ontario’s Entrepreneur of the Year at a recent awards ceremony in Toronto.
Commercial Alcohols began in 1989, shortly after Field left his previous job in real estate. Initially, the company made industrial alcohol, an ingredient found in such everyday items as shampoo and laundry detergent. But by the mid-1990s, Field saw a market for something bigger, and began shifting the company’s focus to manufacturing ethanol.
Ethanol is an alcohol product added to gasoline to make it burn cleaner by turning poisonous carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide. It’s made from corn — lots of corn. In fact, Field’s company buys 18 million bushels a year, making it the second-largest corn consumer in Ontario.
His early plans for an ethanol plant in Chatham, Ont. — in the heart of the province’s corn belt — met with resistance from bankers, who were reluctant to lend money for such an unproven project.
Field eventually got the money and began building his plant — and today, the company produces 500,000 litres of ethanol a day, all of which goes to Sunoco filling stations. Commercial Alcohols generates more than $250-million in annual revenue.
“I didn’t do this because I needed the money,” he says. “I did this because it’s a challenge. There’s a need for this.”
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