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Franken visits Worthington

U.S. Sen. Al Franken (center) poses for a photo Thursday on his visit to Worthington. From left: Craig Clark, Mike Kuhle, Tom Johnson, Miron Carney, Sen. Franken, Larry Potter, Deb Potter and Gene Metz. Robin Baumgarn/Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON — New light will be shed on Blue Line Travel Center in Worthington thanks to a retrofitting project through the PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) program. The $75,000 project will outfit the site with new lighting to replace the current LED lighting on the property’s facade. 

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U.S. Sen. Al Franken, a long-time supporter of energy retrofits and the PACE program, was on hand Thursday morning to congratulate Blue Line Travel Center owners Larry and Deb Potter, Worthington and the southwest region of the state for moving toward cleaner energy.

PACE allows business owners to finance clean energy improvements without having the up-front out-of-pocket expense associated with them. The energy savings will offset the payments 100 percent, often allowing the business to realize an immediate improvement in the bottom line.

Larry Potter said he decided to retrofit the truck stop after a seminar hosted by the Rural Minnesota Energy Board regarding PACE.

It was an idea he’d thought about for a long time but hadn’t been able to find the financing to make the idea come to life. With the money received through PACE, Potter can make the needed updates and looks forward to the energy savings he anticipates.

The PACE program loans commercial and industrial businesses money, which is repaid through special assessment, to increase their energy efficiency.

Franken congratulated the Potters on choosing to participate in the program.

“This is a big day,” Franken said. “Larry and Deb, thanks for being the first to use this PACE program here in the southwest and Worthington.”

Franken explained why he supports the PACE program in terms of job creation and as a source of promoting clean energy.

“It’s really a win-win situation,” Franken said. “Not only do you improve your energy efficiency and use less power, you save money. You save money every year once retrofits have been installed and then you can reinvest that money, whether it is in hiring other people or maybe expanding or making other improvements. That’s why I have been a champion of retrofits a long time.

“I’ve seen retrofits do a number of things. They create jobs,” Franken continued. “They improve the quality of the building — quality of working in the building. They enhance the value of your property. It’s win-win-win-win-win.”

Franken said it was “gratifying” to see the first project take shape in Worthington after attending a seminar here in 2012 on developing the PACE program.

“This (retrofitting) works,” he said. “This is something that we need to do. This is something we need to do to get our carbon footprint down. This is something that we need to do to get people to work.

“It’s something that we need to just keep doing. We’re going to do more and more retrofits. The faster the technology gets more efficient, the more we’ll do it and the more it will make sense to do it.”

Potter said he plans to get started on the lighting project after Labor Day once materials are received. In his presentation, Franken noted if this first project is successful, the Potters intend to make further improvements to the Travel Center.

Robin Baumgarn

Robin Baumgarn is a new reporter for the Daily Globe covering the Education and Northwest Iowa beats. Prior to coming to the Globe, she worked for the Ocheyedan Press-Melvin News, a weekly Iowa paper for three years. She is a 2012 graduate of Iowa Lakes Community College and lives in Northwest Iowa with her husband Ryan and three pets, Fidget, Missy and Samwise.

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