KINGSBURY | Thousands of tons of additional grain from Canada will be making its way through the region by rail.
Kingsbury Elevator is embarking on a $4.5 million expansion that will increase by four times the amount of grain that can be brought in on freight cars at the facility.
''It's going to be a big thing for our company and we should be able to grow,'' said Ed Lindborg, owner of Kingsbury Elevator since 1978. ''We have tremendous potential for expansion here, we believe.''
Grain exports by rail are expected to give local farmers an opportunity to reach markets from the Atlantic to Pacific oceans and even the Gulf of Mexico.
Currently, the grain brought to the elevator by rail is shipped out on semi trucks to markets within a 200-mile radius.
The La Porte County Council on March 24 granted a 10-year tax abatement on the new investment at the elevator at 5621 S. U.S. 35.
Lindborg said he's adding three double-service lines to his property from the main line of the Canadian National Railroad, one of the largest freight lines in the nation.
The extra service lines will allow CNR freight trains a mile or longer in length to veer off the main line and drop 25 cars of grain off at the facility and return to the main line with 25 empty cars, to be filled again with more grain once the locomotive returns to Canada. Currently, the one service line running to the elevator is short, holding just eight rail cars, and only three of those cars can be unloaded in a day, Lindborg said.
Over the 10-year tax abatement period, Kingsbury Elevator will save about $90,000, but the county will receive $150,000 in tax revenue over what's collected now from the site, said Matt Reardon, director of the La Porte County Office for Economic Development.
''We're very pleased this project is moving forward. It's been in the making for quite awhile,'' Reardon said.
The state is also expected to provide tax incentives.
Lindborg said the expansion was necessary to meet higher consumer demand for the dozen or so grains brought in from Canada the last five years. Expanding also guarantees trains continue delivering grain, because the railroad on its runs from Canada through Chicago to Detroit prefers to stop only for major-volume pick-ups and deliveries.
''We've been able to put this project together based on the fact the railroad is interested in helping us with this project and servicing us, and they want us to grow in the future,'' Lindborg said.
After the three new service lines are put in, Lindborg eventually wants to add five more double-service lines.
Construction of the service lines and another handling and storage facility will begin in two weeks with completion slated for September, he said. The acreage at the elevator will also grow to 25 acres from 3.
Lindborg said the existing workforce of more than 30 will increase by 10 to 15 positions, mostly equipment operators and drivers to move product. The jobs are expected to pay an average of $26 per hour, LaPorte County's Reardon said.
Kingsbury Elevator has been business since the 1870s when the railroad first came through. The elevator annually brings in from Canada thousands of tons of grain such as canola meal, oats and flaxseed, along with potash, a fertilizer. Canola meal is used for things such as high-protein feed for dairy cows