Manager: Cargill to start up in September

The Cargill plant west of Fort Dodge is scheduled to begin operating in September, the site’s top leader told a Fort Dodge audience Tuesday evening.

Al Viaene, the assistant vice president and facility manager, said Sept. 15 is the targeted startup date.

When full production capacity is reached, he added, the plant will consume 150,000 bushels of corn a day and turn out five products. Those products are dextrose, ethanol, feed for cattle, high gluten meal generally fed to poultry, corn germ and a molasses-like substance called corn steep liquor.

”You can make so many things out of corn it’s ridiculous,” he said.

He summed up the progress on the plant by saying ”We’re well on our way.”

Viaene spoke to about 30 people at a meeting of the Well-Informed Webster People at the Light of the City Conference Center, 2175 180th St.

The Cargill facility is in the industrial park called Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation. Cargill purchased the facility from Tate & Lyle, which never operated it, in 2011.

”We bought the plant with the intent to grow this business here,” Viaene said.

The company has 133 employees locally. Viaene said the majority of them come from a 40-mile radius of Fort Dodge.

He said there are a few positions left to fill and added that the plant will be fully staffed within a month.

In addition to the Cargill workers, up to 60 employees of contractors providing services like maintenance and security will be at the plant every day.

Many of the Cargill employees are now training at other company facilities. They will return to Webster County by the end of May and the process of commissioning the plant will then begin, according to Viaene.

Once production starts, 250 to 350 trucks full of corn will travel to the plant daily, he said.

The corn will go through a wet milling process to yield the various products.

Some of the dextrose, which will be in a liquid form, will be pumped through pipes to the CJ Bio America plant being constructed north of the Cargill facility. CJ Bio America will process the dextrose to produce amino acids used in animal feeds. The CJ Bio America plant is scheduled to open by early 2014.

The ethanol to be produced by Cargill will be shipped by rail to refineries.

Viaene said the animal feed will be shipped by rail to the Texas Panhandle, where it will be used by cattle producers.

The high gluten meal will also be sent to market via trains, he said. The corn germ will be sent to another Cargill facility, most likely in Blair, Neb., for further processing.

Viaene said the corn steep liquor will also probably go to another Cargill facility.

Local Cargill employees have already made an impact on the community. They raised $118,950 for the Fort Dodge Community Foundation and United Way. Viaene said they started with a goal of $20,000.

Last year, a handful of workers from the plant’s engineering department restored the Armistead cabin at the Fort Museum and Frontier Village. Viaene said the company spent $20,000 on that project.

He said on April 9 company leaders will meet with representatives of local government, schools and fire departments to determine how Cargill can best contribute to the community.

Viaene said he hopes the Fort Dodge community can continue to provide the company with a talented work force. He said providing good housing and a quality of life for those workers which includes a recreation center, shopping opportunities, restaurants and high quality schools is important.