Port Milwaukee and the agricultural company DeLong plan to build a $31.3 million export center on Jones Island using a federal grant to cover half of the project’s cost.
The so-called Agricultural Maritime Export Facility would be the first and only “bulk agricultural transload” center on the Great Lakes to supply soybeans and dry distillers grain, an animal feed supplement derived from ethanol production. Supplies would be sent primarily by truck and rail to ships at port.
The project calls for demolishing abandoned structures that now sit at the site and building an operation to store products for shipping. Clinton-based DeLong, a food and grain supplier, would pay for part of the development and lease space there.
“To the best of my knowledge, today’s $31 million project announcement is the largest single investment in the history of the port, especially since it opened to international shipping in 1959,” said Adam Schlicht, port director.
It could still take about two years before construction on the project gets underway, Schlicht said. Port officials plan to begin negotiating a lease agreement with DeLong, and it could take a year or so before the federal government signs off on the release of grant money for the project.
That money is coming with a Buy American provision requiring that materials and products used to build the center come from U.S. suppliers. Schlicht said Port officials have already identified a number of domestic suppliers for the project.
“Buy American is definitely a bipartisan-supported idea,” he said. “We have a really good idea where we’re going to take this.”
Once operational, the project could initially deal with $40 million in shipments of dry distillers grain. It could also eventually be used for shipments of other goods, such as corn and wheat. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said increased commerce will bring more revenue to the Port.
“The more economic activity we have here, the more money is generated by the port and ultimately by the city,” Barrett said.
Under the deal, Port Milwaukee will pay $4.3 million for rail work and the demolition of existing properties, including a former boiler plant that has been vacant for more than a decade, Schlicht said. DeLong will pay $6.2 million in development costs. And the Wisconsin Department of Transportation will provide a $4.9 million Harbor Assistance Grant.
Port Milwaukee’s money for the project is coming from a $15.9 million Port Infrastructure Development Program grant from the U.S. Maritime Administration. That grant program also awarded a $10.5 million grant this week to the Duluth Seaway Port Authority to pay for half the cost of a $20.3 million project for a rail-connected warehouse.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin told Port Milwaukee officials this week that the money had been awarded and voted in favor of the grant as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“Port Milwaukee moves Wisconsin’s manufactured goods and agricultural products to markets across the country and to the rest of the world,” Baldwin said in a statement. “I worked to secure this investment in our transportation infrastructure so that we can expand farmers’ access to international markets, create jobs for Milwaukee workers and help grow our Made in Wisconsin economy.”Follow @natebeck9