ADM opens huge flour mill in Mendota, replacing Chicago plant

  • This is an aerial view of the largest flour mill ever built from the ground up in North America. The sprawling mill next to Interstate 39 sports its own railroad overpass rising above a looping track that enables it to unload 110-car grain trains in 15 hours.

    This is an aerial view of the largest flour mill ever built from the ground up in North America. The sprawling mill next to Interstate 39 sports its own railroad overpass rising above a looping track that enables it to unload 110-car grain trains in 15 hours. Courtesy of Archer Daniels Midland Co.

  • Most years, the biggest event in the sleepy downstate community of Mendota is August's sweet corn festival, which draws 60,000 people.

      Most years, the biggest event in the sleepy downstate community of Mendota is August's sweet corn festival, which draws 60,000 people. James Kane | Staff Photographer

  • This is a view of the largest flour mill ever built from the ground up in North America from an overpass Archer Daniels Midland built to get trucks to the plant while it is unloading 110-car grain trains.

      This is a view of the largest flour mill ever built from the ground up in North America from an overpass Archer Daniels Midland built to get trucks to the plant while it is unloading 110-car grain trains. James Kane | Staff Photographer

  • Mendota, 85 miles west of Chicago, is in the heart of the nation's Corn Belt. It has an annual sweet corn festival that draws 60,000 people, and an ear of corn is painted on a towering concrete grain silo near the downtown.

      Mendota, 85 miles west of Chicago, is in the heart of the nation's Corn Belt. It has an annual sweet corn festival that draws 60,000 people, and an ear of corn is painted on a towering concrete grain silo near the downtown. James Kane | Staff Photographer

  • Del Monte Foods is closing the 70-year-old Mendota packing plant, one of the town's biggest employers, leading to the loss of 130 full-time jobs and about 350 seasonal jobs.

      Del Monte Foods is closing the 70-year-old Mendota packing plant, one of the town's biggest employers, leading to the loss of 130 full-time jobs and about 350 seasonal jobs. James Kane | Staff Photographer

  • Kevin Like, president of ADM Milling

    Kevin Like, president of ADM Milling

  • A sign at the edge of Mendota touts the community organizations typical in small Midwest cities.

      A sign at the edge of Mendota touts the community organizations typical in small Midwest cities. James Kane | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted9/21/2019 1:00 AM

MENDOTA -- Most years, the biggest event in the sleepy downstate community of Mendota, population 7,400, is August's sweet corn festival, which draws 60,000 people. This year, Del Monte Foods furnished 20 tons of corn for the event.

Ten days later, Del Monte announced it is closing the 70-year-old packing plant, one of the town's biggest employers, leading to the loss of 130 full-time jobs and about 350 seasonal jobs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While the town 85 miles west of Chicago is in the middle of corn country, wheat is destined to play a role in its future.

On Wednesday, Archer Daniels Midland Company celebrated the opening of the largest flour mill ever built from the ground up in North America. The sprawling mill sports its own railroad overpass rising above a looping track that enables it to unload 110-car grain trains in 15 hours.

It's quite a departure from the 122-year-old mill it replaces in Chicago's rapidly redeveloping Fulton Market area, just west of the Loop. That landlocked mill is set on a single city block. Once production fully transitions to the new plant, the old one will close and the land, a few blocks from McDonald's new world headquarters, will be sold for redevelopment, said Kevin Like, president of ADM Milling.

The new mill has twice the volume of the old one, able to produce 15 tons of flour a day, enough to fill 15 rail cars or 60 semis per day. It will operate around the clock with 30 to 40 employees, compared to the 60 employees who worked in Chicago, some of whom are transferring to Mendota or moving to other ADM operations.

"This high-tech mill offers unparalleled advantages, including the most up-to-date monitoring and quality-control equipment; swift and efficient packing and transportation options; and the ability to mill a wide array of wheat varieties to ensure we are meeting the needs of all of our customers across the Midwest," Like said in a news release.

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The mill will sell varieties of flour made from hard wheat, spring wheat and soft wheat sourced from different areas around the Midwest to the wholesale trade. ADM mills supply about a fifth of the North American flour market, Like said.

Looking at the town's gains and losses, Katie Fox, CEO of the Mendota Chamber of Commerce, said "they weigh each other out."

And the sweet corn festival, looking forward to its 73rd year, will continue, she promises.

"We're exploring other options for sweet corn," Fox added.

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