KIMBALL -- As the newly constructed $35.5 million Liberty Grain facility opens for business, local developers have already made plans to take advantage of the area's improved infrastructure.
Chuck Jepson, the man behind the construction of Liberty Grain, said Wednesday he has been working as part of a development group, known as Iron Horse Development, LLC, to bring several new businesses to the area near Liberty Grain.
"The railroad and good infrastructure really are creating a whole lot of opportunity," he said.
Currently, the group is in the process of developing a retail fertilizer business, a seed, corn and feed distribution business, a feed supply business and a coal transloading business to the area.
"These are really solid business ideas that not only fit on the rail, but fit in the area," Jepson said.
The new businesses are planned for land owned by Christiansen Land and Cattle, Ltd., whose owners, Eddie and Christine Hamilton, of Kimball, are members of Iron Horse Development.
Jepson said physical work to develop the land and businesses could begin in 18 to 24 months. He estimated the businesses could bring in as much as $100 million to $150 million each year.
The development of the businesses is funded entirely through private equity, Jepson said.
"We've got a lot of things going for us, and we think it should be capitalized on," he said.
It's undecided if Iron Horse Development will be an owner of any of the proposed businesses, Jepson said, as specifics of the plan are still being worked out.
The Liberty Grain facility, located between Kimball and White Lake, is already accepting corn and soybeans after recently opening for business following about 13 months under construction. The facility is capable of taking in grain from area farmers and loading it on 110-car shuttle trains, mostly bound for West Coast ports.
While the crops are currently being piled outside, Jepson said the facility will begin taking advantage of its storage facilities as early as Friday or Saturday. The facility has two 150-foot silos that hold 472,000 bushels of grain each, plus eight smaller 108,000-bushel bins, for a total upright storage capacity of 2.2 million bushels. Liberty Grain is capable of storing an additional 4.4 million bushels in other storage facilities at the site.
Dakota Southern, which operates the stretch of railroad between Mitchell and Chamberlain, recently announced it would begin running 60- and 100-car trains of grain and fertilizer to and from Liberty Grain beginning Sept. 20.
As development continues, Jepson hopes future business ideas will bring jobs and economic prosperity to the rural area.
"We want to make enough money to create the next job," he said.