by Joe Buttweiler –
MASON CITY – Construction of a new 83,000-square-foot warehouse at United Sugars Corp. is expected to be finished in July, helping the company save money on storage, transportation and handling.
In recent years when the sugar crop was large, the company had to truck sugar to offsite warehouses in Mason City and then back to the main distribution center on the southwest corner of Highways 65 and B20, according to Roy Smith, quality systems director for United Sugars in Bloomington, Minn.
“We fill up reusable totes with sugar and send them to offsite storage,” he explained. Then when space permits at the distribution center, the 2,400-pound totes are trucked back and the sugar is loaded onto rail cars and shipped to customers.
The company serves major food companies that make products such as cereal, candy and beverages.
The sugar that comes to Mason City starts out in the sugar beet fields of the Red River Valley. Sugar beets are “like a cross between a turnip and a potato,” Smith said. They are picked and processed at plants in the Red River Valley. Then the granulated white sugar is hauled by rail to distribution sites in Chaska, Minn., and Mason City.
Construction of the warehouse began late last summer. It was partially complete and usable over the winter, Smith said. The project is expected to be finished in July, in plenty of time for storage of the sugar coming in after the 2011 growing season.
Smith said he does not expect there to be an increase in employment due to the warehouse expansion. There are currently about 20 employees.
Greystone Construction Co. of Shakopee, Minn., is the general contractor for the project.
Smith said flooding in the Red River Valley is not expected to affect this year’s sugar beet crop, although prolonged wet conditions from rain will likely shorten the growing season and reduce yields this year. Sugar beets grow best in hot and dry conditions, he explained.
Besides saving money on warehousing and transportation, the project shows United Sugar’s commitment to the Mason City distribution center, Smith said. “Mason City is quite a ways from the rest of the business, but it’s an important part of it,” he said.
United Sugars, formed in 1994, is a marketing cooperative owned by three sugar producers, American Crystal Sugar Company, Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative and United States Sugar Corporation.
It offers sugar for many uses and currently supplies about one-fourth of the total U.S. demand, according to the company website.
For more on United Sugars Corp. visit its website at unitedsugars.com. For a fun quiz on sugar, click on the Short & Sweet link on the homepage.