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Morris Coop plans expanded agronomy center opening for spring 2014

On Thursday, April 18, customers and community members were invited to the Morris Coop Association’s new bulk seed treatment facility just outside of Morris. Despite the snow storm, more than 200 people attended. (Kim Ukura/Sun Tribune)

MORRIS – After a productive and profitable year in 2012, the Morris Coop Association was able to return approximately $1 million to community stakeholders while simultaneously moving forward with a major facility expansion just north of Morris.

At the Coop's 82nd annual meeting on Thursday, April 11, the organization issued over 1,700 dividend checks to stakeholders totaling approximately $767,000, Manager Brian Kruize said. That amount equals approximately 25.9 cents saved on gas and 28 cents saved on fuel.

The Coop also paid out about $236,000 in various stock retirement programs, bringing the total return to customers to just over $1 million, Kruize said.

“I would like to believe that these dollars go back into the local economy,” said Kruize.

The focus for 2013 will be adding an agronomy center to recently-purchased property just outside of Morris.

Morris Coop's seven-member board of directors has been discussing the possibility of expanding since March 2011. Before making the decision to move forward, the company conducted feasibility studies; analyzed projected costs, sales estimates and competitors; and explored different options for the new location.

“We needed to match our product portfolio to meet the needs of our growing customers,” said Kruize.

After the research was done, “the writing was on the wall,” Kruize continued. The board officially approved the project in August 2012, and the company has been moving quickly to, hopefully, get the Agronomy Center up and running by April 2014.

“It was a tough decision, but once we looked at all the numbers we needed to do something to be a viable agronomy supplier in the future,” said Kruize. “It's easy to sit back and let the world happen while we keep doing our thing, and then pretty soon we've run our property into the ground.”

The nine-acre complex along Highway 9 just north of Morris adjoins Morris Coop's existing bulk plant. The expansion will eventually include five facilities: a seed warehouse with six bulk seed bins, a dry fertilizer warehouse and fertilizer blending tower, a bulk crop protection/chemical warehouse, an agronomy office, and, in two or three years, an agronomy shop.

The seed warehouse, which will store seed corn, bulk soybeans, and a seed treater, will be up and running this spring. The Coop invited customers and the community to the facility this week for a lunch and open house to celebrate and showcase the new building as construction continues on the rest of the center.

In addition to offering more space, the updated facilities will also be safer and move production away from downtown Morris while still keeping the facility near the community.

The Coop currently operates a dry fertilizer plant on property along East 10th Street. Although the facility, which was built in the 1970s, got new siding and new paint last summer to keep it from being an eyesore, it will be demolished or repurposed after the new plant is completed, Kruize said.

“[The expansion has] been an ongoing project and concern, it just didn't happen on a whim,” said Kruize. “It's a big deal for Morris Coop. It's very exciting to be able to build in Morris, Minnesota. It's nice to be able to stay in town.”