New side pass rail brings opportunity to Belle Fourche agribusinesses, other manufacturers
In celebration of manufacturers week, Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce hosted an event that included speeches from notable state legislators and tours of key manufactures across the city. Additionally, a one-of-a-kind ribbon cutting was held for the new side pass rail line completed by Rapid City, Pierre, & Eastern Railroad (RCP&E).
The companies say the side pass will better serve the city’s economic infrastructure.
Honorary guests of this event included Senator John Thune and Governor Dennis Daugaard.
The manufacturing sector is the state’s second largest employer in the state, following agriculture, said Daugaard. Citing the extensive list of products that the state produces including mechanical parts, chemical products, and medical products he said the manufacturing industry employs 10 percent of the state’s workers. He also noted the support that the state’s rail system provides to farmers and ranchers.
“Our state produces more than we can consume,” Daugaard noted. “Whether you are a farmer, a rancher or a manufacturer, you need rail to get our products to market. You need cost effective, efficient options to ship. South Dakota’s producers depend on rail not only to bring in raw materials…but also so we can turn around and export products out of state.”
As the former state railroad director under Governor George Mickelson, Senator Thune is no stranger to South Dakota railroads and their impacts on businesses.
“Having a train loading facility in the Northern Hills is a huge opportunity not only in the present but in the future,” Thune said. “I am a huge believer of infrastructure and what that means for jobs. If we are going to create more jobs, better paying jobs, we have to have the infrastructure to support that.”
Railroads have been a part of this area for decades, and will continue to be important to the economy of this region of the country, Thune noted.
RCP&E owns the rail line that runs through Belle Fourche which travels from Colony, Wyoming to Tracy, Minnesota, and has a southward leg from Rapid City to Dakota Junction, Nebraska.
RCP&E hopes to serve several local businesses including New Generation Supplements, a manufacturer of low moisture block supplement lines such as Smartlic and Feed in a Drum.
New Generation Supplements was established in 1997 after renovating an old beet factory on the northeast side of Belle. Their products, including various formulas of low moisture blocks suitable for beef and dairy cattle, small ruminants, and horses are shipped around the country. Coming up on a 20-year tenure of establishment, the company has grown nationally to include manufacturing plants in Sioux City, Oklahoma, Nevada, and a co-op plant in Tennessee.
Even considering their growth, the Belle Fourche plant remains New Generation Supplement’s headquarters and New Generation Supplements is still based out of Belle Fourche and produces the largest volume of product for the company. With molasses being a key component of every block produced, Jeff Westberg, Whitewood native and COO of New Generation Supplements, sees opportunity to source key raw ingredients by rail.
Facilitating molasses transportation by rail to Belle Fourche would take a little legwork up front, but Westberg feels that this rail siding provides another viable option in addition to their current system of raw material receiving.
“With that siding out there, we would have to put in a boiler system to heat the cars.” Westberg said. “ We would also have to put in an unloading complex. We could then source all of our molasses ingredients [by rail] rather than by long-haul trucks.”
As for the city of Belle Fourche, Westberg finds events such as Manufactures Celebration and the commemoration of updated the opening of growing infrastructure a great thing for a community that has been good to this fast track agribusiness.
New Generation Supplements was happy to open their doors to the public with a handshake and a warm smile.
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