Officials at Agro Culture Liquid Fertilizer's new plant in Ashley were well prepared for an onslaught of visitors for the open house Wednesday.
Hundreds of people turned out for the event, including the NASCAR Farm American team with driver Regan Smith and his number 57 car.
Company owner Troy Bancroft provided a brief history of the operation, telling how he and his father-in-law began the business in 1983 in St. Johns.
Now selling the fertilizer all over the country, Mexico and Canada, at the time they envisioned just a three state area, he said.
When St. Johns lost the railroad, the company began trucking their product to Ashley to ship out on the rail lines. It wasn't long before they built their new plant there, part of a brownfield redevelopment.
They built a 53,000 square foot building made of canvas that's 65 feet high, Bancroft said.
The canvas allows light in, is energy efficient and, “It's pleasant to work in,” he said.
Height was needed for the 30 foot tall tanks that are kept both outside and inside.
Bancroft made a point of detailing the careful consideration give to environmental concerns.
They built the plant with the worst case scenarios in mind.
“We can recover spills,” he said. “It's self cleaning.”
Water used in the production is used again, he added.
“It's the biggest facility we've ever put together,” he said of the business that ships 30 million gallons or about 100,000 gallons of fertilizer a day.
It is also the largest facility dedicated to studying plant nutrition, he added.
Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Keith Creagh noted that during the state's economic crisis, agriculture was the one sector that did well.
Creagh, who has a history of working within the DOA with pesticide programs, is familiar with environmental concerns.
“(The company) has exceeded every rule and standard when it comes to the environment,” he said.
Not only that, but all one has to do is look at the company record and its awards. It has developed a system to deliver the fertilizer at just the appropriate time, with the exact nutrients and the exact amounts a particular plant needs, he said.
In addition to being environmentally safe, it increases plant yields, he said.
He also pointed out that when a company makes an investment, “it's going to stay here long term,” he said.
Agro Culture employs about 15 people at the Ashley plant. Headquarters are still in St. Johns.
But Greater Gratiot Development President Don Schurr pointed out that another ten people could be added when counting near-by dealers and those who provide services.
“Give me another dozen just like (Agro Culture),” he said.