COLFAX — Drivers on Interstate 80 have been able to see the construction progress on Beck’s Hybrid Seed’s new $15 million distribution center in Colfax since fall 2015.
Cranes lifting the building’s outer curved-steel structure, bulldozers and end-loaders moving dirt and grading and scaffold edging the triple-structure of the Beck’s campus gives workers a platform to install windows and build the facility’s brick front.
Now that spring is in full swing, Beck’s project superintendent Dennis Combs said so are his workers.
“Construction is going well. We’ve been delayed a little bit by the weather, but our completion date is still Aug. 1. We are on track to be done in time,” Combs said. “With the warmer weather, a whole lot of activity is going to start.”
Beck’s is the largest family-owned retail seed company in the U.S. with locations in eight states. Jasper County and the City of Colfax gave the company a five-year, sliding scale tax abatement in exchange for locating in the town of 2,093.
During the Colfax City Council’s April meeting, mayor David Mast reported that annexation papers with the Indiana-based company were signed and the process is nearing completion. City officials say this will bring a much needed revenue boost to Colfax’s general fund through property tax. Beck’s will receive a 75 percent abatement the first year, 60 percent in year two, 45 percent the third year, 30 percent the fourth year and 15 percent the fifth year.
Workers are tying to finish construction in time for Beck’s Aug. 9 field event — which will become an annual expo of Beck’s corn, soy and cover crop products grown in 190-acres of varying soil types right on site.
Work is also underway on the interior of the 90,000-square foot facility. During an April 13 walk-through of what will be the center building, contractors could be seen putting in drywall and electrical wiring for office space and the massive warehouse on the building’s back half had fiberglass insulation and other materials on the concrete floor waiting for installation. While interior work was underway, a shell of “building 1” was erected in only 1.5 days.
Combs said the front 6,500 feet of the west building will be a maintenance shop for everything from pickup trucks to tractors and combines. The rear 235 feet will be warehouse and storage. In the middle building, the front 110 feet will be a two-story office space and mechanical room. The back 200 feet will also be warehouse. The third, east building, which as of April 14 was just a concrete foundation, will utilize the front 70 feet as a loading dock, truck driver waiting area and restroom facilities and the remaining 230 feet will serve as more warehouse space.
Outside, landscaping has already begun. Combs said the grounds will be “as flat as we can get it.” There is some slopping on the property for drainage, but the most noticeable feature will be a 6 million gallon pond that will add a bit of ambiance to the property.
Dirt excavated from the water feature has been used to raise the property nearly four feet, and Beck’s agronomist Scott Nelson has faith that his company will not disappoint when it comes to aesthetics.
“This will be landscaped to a cherry, the Beck family is very meticulous,” Nelson said. “It will look very nice. There will be a lot of green grass.”
The seed retailer also has its own seed and crop hybrid breeding program, and the company’s scope allows it to license genetics from Pioneer, Monsanto and Syngenta and sell seed from other producers such as Dekalb Seed.
Nelson is a practical farm research agronomist for Beck’s and will be based at the Colfax site. He will lead the facility’s practical farm research team which will provide a service to Iowa farmers looking for a better understanding of land tillage effects, soil fertility, nitrate and basic crop management.
Many seed distributors do test plots — such as Beck’s neighbor DuPont-Pioneer dealer Central Iowa Seed — presenting each hybrid varieties’ performance in a real-world situation. But this is the first season the Beck’s company model will be displayed in Iowa.
“At Beck’s we do that research for farmers. Iowa is the newest location where we have practical farm research. We have 130 acres here — 60 acres of really high productive ground and 75 acres of less productive (graded on corn suitability rating). So we’re testing on both kinds of soil in both environments.”
Nelson said Beck’s will operate state-wide initiatives from its Colfax location. The company’s Practical Farm Research Partners program will look to establish relationships with producers in all regions of the state. This benefits farmers looking take advantage of the company’s field, nitrate and soil management practices and gives Beck’s a better comparison of soil types and typography in northwest Iowa verses central and southeastern portions of the state.
“There are some soil types we cannot replicate here. PFR can test more environments,” Nelson said. “The reason that’s important is we want to understand how nitrogen flows across the typography. We have some simple nitrogen rate-tests across the typography to see if we can minimize nitrogen loss in to the stream and still optimize the farmer’s yield.”
But the big question for the Jasper County — and specifically for the Colfax — economy is jobs. When Beck’s first announced the project in May 2015, Jasper County Economic Development Corporation Director Chaz Allen said the facility would generate nearly 50 jobs. Nelson said he does not have specific details on what will be available, but he did indicate the Beck’s will need both agro-professionals and part-time and seasonal assistance with planting and warehouse employees, such as forklift operators.
A Beck’s corporate spokesperson said April 11 she is not certain when hiring will begin, but many positions will be posted on beckshybrids.com.
Contact Mike Mendenhall at email@example.com