ESTEVAN - Southern Plains Co-op's latest big development is getting close to completion ahead of the seeding season.
The project has seen more progress, and in just several weeks it will open its doors to supply local farmers with fertilizer, chemicals and seed, on top of everything else the current Co-op Agro Centre on Kensington Avenue provides, including bulk petroleum and feed and farm hardware lines.
Southern Plains Co-op general manager Brian Enns said the two buildings that are being constructed now will soon be ready to serve customers.
"It's a new phase for Southern Plains Co-op, as we enter into a new business line. The construction is progressing well. Our fertilizer building will be opening at the end of April or the first week of May. And then our warehouse will follow shortly after that," Enns said.
He added that they faced supply chain issues at some point, but for the most part, the project has been moving forward almost as planned.
The new development has been in the works for about five years with the board of directors, as they've been looking for a new direction for the business.
"Everyone's aware with the mandates coming on carbon and what may happen, we're not sure where our petroleum business may go in the future. And we still want to be there and looking at whatever other opportunities there are for the co-op to move forward," Enns explained.
A big decision was finally made, and the co-op started growing to meet the needs of the farming community in the area. The new centre is adjacent to the co-op cardlock on the bypass. Enns said they acquired that property at the same time with land for the fuel station.
"We weren't sure what to do with it, we had an idea. And it just took time to get everything into place before we could move forward with this new business line," Enns said.
The big new buildings and the new development will allow the co-op to bring in fertilizer, chemicals and seed, which they didn't have before.
"That's a big part of what's going out there. Our existing businesses that we have will move there, transition to that location. But the fertilizer, chemical and seed business are all new to us. We weren't in those lines," Enns noted.
Employees from Kensington will transfer to the new location as well, and more people are already hired to keep the bigger centre running smoothly. The cardlock on Kensington will stay in operation, and the building will be converted into office space. Then the administration will be moved over there.
Some of the new product will be directly delivered to the farms, but a lot of it co-op will have in stock.
"It's a $6.5-million investment that we're putting into the buildings out there," Enns said. "It was a big decision."
He added the growing price of fuel puts a lot of pressure on farmers, which also makes it riskier for the new project.
The grand opening for the centre will be announced at a later date and is planned to take place in July or August.