BLUE?EARTH - While WFS is closing its Blue Earth facility, it should be viewed as a step into the future, according to Jo Ann Gumto, communications director for the company.
The Blue Earth site will be shut down permanently on Feb. 28. What happens to it in the future is still undecided.
"We're looking at options as far as tearing it down or opening it up for an auction," she said.
The main part of the site was "probably built in the '50s or '60s," Gumto said. Sections containing the scale and offices are estimated to be older. "The old feed mill - we don't use it anymore - is probably older than the '50s or '60s."
Gumto was quick to offer assurance that closing the Blue Earth site is "not a safety issue; nobody's in danger," she said.
Gumto said the facility is "just worn out."
The cost to update it is prohibitive, and the location in the middle of town makes it difficult for WFS to rebuild in that location.
Closing the facility is "making sure things are up to standard," Gumto said. "As an employer, you have to make sure employees and customers are taken care of."
Of the three workers at the site, two were let go.
"This time, we didn't have any other place for them," Gumto said.
The third employee was transferred to the agronomy plant on 14th Street. The agronomy plant is a separate site and will be kept open to provide access to anhydrous and seed for local farmers.
"You don't want to deliver those [anhydrous tanks] a long distance," she said.
Closing the Blue Earth facility will not leave local farmers in the lurch, according to Gumto. Farmers who have grain contracts can contact Tom Hoffman at (507) 854-3204 at the Delavan facility, which opened last fall.
Knowing they had aging sites, WFS studied the situation for quite some time, Gumto said, and picked Delavan because it is on a major rail line, has enough land for a circle track to accommodate several rail cars, and has access to a highway.
Then they hired Kahler Automation to put in bells and whistles.
"The elevator we put up in Delavan is start of the art," Gumto said. "All this automation, that makes it easy to drop your grain. Within five to seven minutes, you're out of there."
WFS will continue to operate in the area, with facilities in 19 locations, Gumto said.
And it will continue to upgrade. One of the next steps is adding two 675,000-bushel bins to the facility in Bricelyn.
"Should be done in fall," Gumto noted, in time for the harvest.