WFS closing Northrop site

NORTHROP – Close on the heels of announcing that its Blue Earth facility is closing, WFS says its elevator in Northrop will shut down, also on Feb. 28.

The company is not sure what will be done with either site.

“Again, we’re evaluating our options,” said CEO?Todd Ludwig.

Unlike in Blue Earth, the elevator in Northrop is WFS’ only site there.

“WFS will not have a presence in Northrop,” Ludwig said.

“We’ll work with producers [on contracts],” he promised.

Farmers can take grain to Truman or Welcome, he said. Truman is about seven miles north on Highway 15 while Welcome can load 100-car trains. Both facilities are newer than Northrop’s.

The Northrop situation is similar to what’s happening in Blue Earth, Ludwig said.

“It’s the same age as Blue Earth,” he said. “I couldn’t tell you exactly, but [it was] probably built in the ’50s or ’60s.”

One difference is the Northrop facility recently had a problem.

“Last fall, we had one wall that had a cave-out,” Ludwig said.

“What happens is grain is somewhat abrasive,” he explained. “Imagine sand flowing over the top of paper. You can picture what that will do to it. The wall holds the grain, it gets thinner over the years and can’t withstand the pressure put on it by the grain inside. It partially gave way.”

“It’s not unsafe today,” he added. “We want to make sure we are stopping before it gets to that. All structures have a life span. These are at their end.”

The Northrop elevator had two employees.

“We were able to find a position within WFS for one,” Ludwig said. “Unfortunately for one, we could not.”

Ludwig knows the closing will disrupt lives.

“What I’d like to say is it wasn’t something WFS takes lightly,” Ludwig said. “We know people will be inconvenienced. We apologize.

“We want to try to balance safety, equity payment and modern facilities,” he said. “We spent $30 million on replacing and fixing up and building.”

Its newest facility, opened in Delavan last fall, may be the last one for a while.

“We are always analyzing the market,” Ludwig said.