Construction crews are building a liquid fertilizer storage and distribution facility in Baker City’s industrial park that is slated to open early this spring.
The Simplot Grower Solutions operation will employ seven people initially, with the potential to increase to about a dozen workers, Josh Jordan, senior manager for communications and public relations for the J.R. Simplot Company, wrote in an email to the Herald.
The Idaho company bought a 14.28-acre parcel from Baker City in the city’s 64-acre Elkhorn View Industrial Park at the northwest corner of the city.
Simplot paid $235,620 for the property, which is west of 17th Street and south of Pocahontas Road. The parcel is just south of the Behlen Mfg. Co.’s livestock equipment factory.
In his email, Jordan wrote that Simplot has operated a temporary Simplot Grower Solutions facility in Baker City. It is near the railroad tracks north of Broadway Street.
The facility under construction is “part of a longer-term plan to build a permanent facility to meet the needs of area farmers, many of whom grow potatoes that we use at our processing facilities,” Jordan wrote.
The Baker City facility will not produce fertilizer.
Simplot has two main production plants, one in Pocatello, Idaho, and one in Rock Springs, Wyoming, that supply the company’s more than 200 Grower Solutions stores, Jordan wrote in his email.
Jordan wrote that the Baker City business, in addition to selling fertilizer mixes to customers’ specifications, will offer other crop products, crop advisers and other services to local farmers.
“The facility will have 2,300 tons of capacity and enhanced capabilities to blend a variety of applications more quickly and efficiently. It will also include a new truck scale and offer some enhanced services all aimed at doing more to serve growers,” Jordan wrote.
Future plans include a business office, shop and railroad spur, he wrote.
In February 2020 the Baker City Planning Commission approved Simplot’s request for a waiver from the 50-foot height limit in the city’s zoning ordinance to accommodate a fertilizer storage tower that will be about 75 feet high initially and could be added to. The conditional-use permit allows a structure as tall as 85 feet.
During a Baker City Council meeting in November 2019, when councilors agreed to sell the parcel to Simplot, Councilor Lynette Perry raised concerns about the plant emitting odors.
Paul Simpson, an operations manager for the company, said the facility will not produce smells or smoke.