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Mister Bee receives federal funds for project improvements

Representatives from Mister Bee, the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development in West Virginia and the West Virginia Economic Development Authority pose for a photo Tuesday upon announcement that the Parkersburg company received $250,000 from the Rural Development program for energy-efficient renovations. From left: Martha Phillips, Development Authority; Craig Arnold, consultant for Mister Bee; Rob Graham, Mister Bee; Steve Webb, Development Authority; Jesse Gandee, Development Authority; Kris Warner, Development Authority; and Mary Anne Ketelsen, Mister Bee. (Photo by Jess Mancini)

PARKERSBURG — West Virginia’s only potato chip maker has received a federal loan financing for renewable energy systems and other improvements.

On Tuesday, officials announced the West Virginia Potato Chip Co. LLC, makers of Mister Bee potato chips, has received $250,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development.

The project includes a new warehouse, a water recycler, a new energy-efficient fryer and potato washer, energy-efficient lighting and other energy-efficient equipment, said Mary Anne Ketelsen, owner of the potato chip company. The savings in energy and other costs will be more than $31,000 a year, she said.

The long-term viability of the company also is enhanced, Ketelsen said. Installations so far have already improved operations and resulted in additional employees, she said.

“I’m very excited,” she said.

From left, Mister Bee sales director Rob Graham and owner Mary Anne Ketelsen describe how chips are made at the potato hopper at Mister Bee. The company received financing of $250,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development in West Virginia. (Photo by Jess Mancini)

Total project value is about $5.7 million, Ketelsen said.

Representatives of the company, the USDA and the West Virginia Economic Development Authority were at the plant on West Virginia Avenue Tuesday morning to announce the investments and tour the facility.

The Development Authority has about $2.6 million invested in the project through a low- and fixed-rate loan, according to Steve Webb, director of financial services for the authority.

“We have made a strong effort to support small businesses and agricultural producers in our Mountain State,” said Kris Warner, USDA Rural Development director in West Virginia.

“This program has allowed West Virginia grantees to choose and upgrade their energy-intensive equipment and facilities, and also gives them the opportunity to invest in renewable energy resources,” he said.

From left, Kris Warner, director of the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development in West Virginia, is shown the potato-making process at Mister Bee by company owner Mary Anne Ketelsen and Mister Bee sales director Rob Graham. (Photo by Jess Mancini)

For the Parkersburg plant, the energy savings will replace 43,527 kWh a year, enough electricity to power about two homes, Warner said.

Mister Bee was established in 1951 by Leo and Sara Klein on Mary Street in Parkersburg, then relocated to West Virginia Avenue in 1962. Ketelsen and other owners purchased the company in 2015.

The Mister Bee financing from the USDA is among the $1.047 million to other companies in West Virginia. Other recipients include Mo’s Mini Warehousing, Gladiator Allegiance, Green Bridge Properties, Mountain View Solar and Wind, Kenneth Point, Shane Sanderson, Sally Shepherd, Wood House Research, Samantha Jo Harper, Luscombe Industries and South Branch Inn.

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