Cargill plan comes together ‘one piece at a time’

Company hosts grand opening of new West Memphis facility

By John Rech

It was Johnny Cash-inspired and code-named “One Piece at a Time,” and when it was all finished, the brushed aluminum of the new Cargill facility in West Memphis stood gleaming on a blue-sky morning shinier than Cash’s “Psycho-billy Cadillac Mo-sheen.” The Cargill granary grand opening Thursday morning drew 150 farmer-customers, contractors, government officials and company staff for a grand tour and a free lunch. The unmistakable rhythms of the dude from Dyess bridged the presentation background. Emcee for the company kick off, Barry Ramstetter, a fan of the Man in Black, said Cargill systematically approached the new elevator operation in West Memphis stage by stage. “You build this twice; once in your mind and then again in construction,” said Ramstetter. Why West Memphis for the new elevator and why specifically the site they bought from Entergy? Ramstetter said he was part of the early planning process which started in 2009. The South Loop spot is deep water which minimizing shipping interruption. Some years the Memphis port is closed because of shallow water. “Clearly West Memphis stood out as the place along the Mississippi River, the amount of production in Arkansas, the natural flow to West Memphis,” said Ramstetter. “It is important to have appropriate water access and land availability. We have to be near the channel but not on the channel. It took a lot of effort from engineers, the Coast Guard. We are in a deep ,water channel and can handle 60 feet of water fluctuation.” Project Manager John Schmidt said it all finally came together in one day. First concrete mat was laid in the river bottom along the bank. Trees were cleared beginning in July of 2014. Fill dirt was brought in from the Westwood Neighborhood to make the road to the plant and build most everything six feet above the 100 year flood plain. But not before a chain reaction of momentous events. “July 11, 2014, we had gotten final Corps approval, we closed on the property, and we got received final commitment approval from the Corporation,” said Schmidt. “That all happened on a Thursday.” The $44.5 million project was all but done for the grand opening. Just some pavement striping remains. Some test loads will arrive this week for a run through on the conveyors, bins and drier. The plant was designed for efficiency especially accurately and safely offloading. A stream of 65 trucks an hour are expected at what leaders called a “high velocity asset.” Seventy percent of the world’s soybean production goes to China mainly for chicken feed. Cargill transloads the river barges to ocean vessels in New Orleans and ships it to China. After contractors were recognized and the West Memphis Fire Department and 4-H received donations from Cargill, city and government officials were acknowledged as part of the team the brought it all together. State Senator Keith Ingram then welcomed Cargill to the city and provided the long view perspective. “This is state of the art,” said Ingram. Cargill locating here confirmed a belief we had in this area. Your children and grandchildren will see in fill projects around this as time goes on. This is part of the international economy. Nothing says that more than Cargill opening here.”

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