SOUTH MILFORD — A steady downfall of rain did nothing to stop the first train hitched to 14 tankers loaded with bulk fertilizer from pulling in to the newly constructed bulk fertilizer terminal, just outside of South Milford, Monday morning.
After working from a facility located along the Chicago shoreline for nearly 50 years, the SEE Terminal built a new material handling operation here in LaGrange County.
Headquartered in Shipshewana, SEE furnishes bulk fertilizers to farm supply companies like Edd’s Supply in Shipshewana, which then resells those products to farmers around the area.
Started by three LaGrange County businessmen in the late 1980s, the SEE Terminal and its Chicago based model of business worked well for most of those years delivering fertilizers needed by local farmers.
Bulk fertilizer would be delivered to the Chicago SEE Terminal by barge and then offloaded into storage tanks at that Chicago facility. From there, it would be moved to semi tankers and trucked back to northeast Indiana where it was once against placed in storage tanks and eventually sold to retailers like Edd’s Supplies who then sold it to area farmers.
But that model was aging and maintaining a terminal in Chicago getting more and more expensive. Besides, the plant, first constructed by Allied Chemical in the 1950s, was showing its age. So James Young, treasurer for SEE Terminal, said his company started planning for a new future.
“Between the barge pricing, the trucking pricing, the age of the terminal that was built in the 1950s, we knew it was going to cost a lot of money to bring that terminal back up to a state of the art facility,” said Young. “In addition, transportation was getting too expensive, so we started planning a new facility."
Construction on the new LaGrange County facility started in December with a spur off the Indiana Northeastern Railroad tracks that run through South Milford. That rail line is owned and operated by the Shultz family, which operates South Milford Grain. The spur was built to bring tankers right to a state of the art delivery system at the terminal. That system is made up of an elaborate collection of pumps and pipes which allow terminal operators to move those liquids from those tankers into storage tanks located at the new facility.
Everything about the new SEE Terminal is large.
“The nitrogen tank, the big one, will hold 2 million gallons,” Young said. “The sulfur tank in the middle is half a million gallons, and the poly tank on the end will hold another half million.”
Bulk materials will be moved by train from Augusta, Georgia, to Montpelier, Ohio, and then brought to LaGrange County by rail behind an Indiana Northeastern locomotive.
The plant isn’t completely operational yet. Crews were still working on the system that moves the material from the tanks to the trucks. Young said he expects that work to be completed sometime within the next two weeks.
"We've worked hard on it to make it as efficient as possible," he explained. "We can mix the product when we load the trucks. It's all computer-controlled. We can send the information from Shipshewana down to here so the truck drivers just punch in their ticket number and pick it up here."
The firm invested more than $3 million to build the new facility. Young said he believes his company got everything right.
“We just wanted to make sure we were set for the next 50 years,” he said.