Fortunately, Two Rivers Cooperative knew it was sitting on a state-designated farm-to-market road, understood the system in Iowa and was familiar with related rules of the regulations.
After months of back and forth, the county ultimately embargoed truck traffic on one road, and the cooperative gladly accepted the compromise.
“I’m not sure these issues have been fully resolved, but we found the traffic we put on the roads wasn’t much of an increase,” Gathman insists.
Further complicating matters of community relations, Two Rivers Cooperative was also met with the residents’ concerns for the welfare of another local elevator — a well regarded, 40-year-old, father-son operation — located in Tracy and its ability to compete against the cooperative for business.
Sensing the storm was brewing, the cooperative went as far as to call public meetings to discuss its plans.
“To be honest, it was brutal,” says Tracy location manager Craig Hetland. “We were surprised at the magnitude of people against the project. A lot of the arguments against it were more emotionally driven than fact-driven; and we weren’t prepared for the emotional resistance we encountered.”
Hetland and Gathman recall that people in the area felt they should have had input on the design, and that 90% of the people who were against the elevator weren’t farmers.
“It can get very frustrating when you believe in a project, and you know it’s right, but just remember to continue to rely on the facts and maintain your composure — even when you’re being verbally attacked,” Gathman says.
“It comes down to the fact that this was a business decision. It was the right decision for our company and for our members. The members wanted a measure of our commitment to the area, and this site proves we’re here for the long haul.”
In its defense, Gathman proudly reports that the new facility added six jobs — three full-time employees and an expanded grain handling truck fleet.
“[Six jobs] may not sound like much, but in rural Iowa, it’s a big deal,” Gathman notes.
Challenges aside, the silver lining for Two Rivers Cooperative was the seamless, fast-tracked construction of the Tracy elevator. The co-op hired Buresh Building Systems and broke ground on April 4; the elevator opened for business Sept. 20, 2011.
“From a corn field to an elevator in five months, a notable accomplishment,” Hetland notes.
During the early planning phases, Two Rivers enlisted the services of consultant Bill Lyster to enhance the efficiency of the new site.
“We told him what we wanted and he asked 100 questions to determine what we really needed,” Hetland explains. “The first question he asked was if anything was sacred, you know, anything that could not and would not be changed. We said no.”
Entering these discussions with an open mind resulted in major improvements, such as the decision to relocate the entryway and exit path for better traffic flow, and the exclusion of a dryer at this stage in the site’s development.
“If you’re working with a blank canvas, seize the opportunity to do it right from the get-go,” Gathman says. “What you know to be true, may not be the best way to do it and may not support your site’s future goals and potential.”
With drying options available at its other sites, Two Rivers decided to forego investing in a dryer, but as the site expands, the addition has been worked into the long-term plan.
“When evaluating the [moisture levels of the] grain we would be handling versus how much would potentially need to be dried, it didn’t make economic sense to install the dryer,” Hetland says. It did, however, install 1/5-cpm Sukup fan and aeration system in each corn bin so it can receive 20% moisture corn as well as wet corn storage.”
The money saved on the dryer was invested in the addition of a second dump pit and leg system, meant to improve the producer’s experience when unloading.
“The farmers appreciated the speed, getting through and back to the field faster, and the ease of access,” Hetland reports. “We moved most people in and out in less than 10 minutes.”