• The construction of Cargill’s new bio-refinery campus in the spring of 2011 helps revitalize the then-struggling town of Fort Dodge, Iowa.
  • Farmer Keith Dencklau is seeing the benefits of the new facility. “This gives farmers another market option,” he says. “It’s good for our town, too.”
  • At the local Ford® and Toyota® dealerships, car and truck sales are up 25%, spurring increases in auto service and maintenance as well.
  • Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (left) talks with employees at Cargill’s facility, which has brought over 350 jobs to the community since opening.

Fort Dodge shows new promise with corn mill

Resurrecting an abandoned facility, Cargill builds a bio-refinery facility that helps jump-start an Iowa town’s economy.

At one time, Fort Dodge, Iowa, was a regional center of commerce. But by the 1980s, the town’s fortune began to change. The meat packing industry—one of the largest employers in the city—left town, taking 3,000 jobs with it.

City leaders were determined to revive the town’s economy. Their efforts appeared to be working when a Cargill competitor began building a corn milling facility in Fort Dodge, designed for starch and ethanol production. But construction halted before the plant’s completion and the site went up for sale. 

“Lots of folks believed our glory days were gone—and never going to return.”— Matt Bemrich, Mayor of Fort Dodge

Cargill leaders saw big potential in Fort Dodge. Surrounded by cornfields, the location was considered ideal for corn milling. The company purchased the partially completed facility in the spring of 2011, intending to transform the abandoned factory into a world-class bio-refinery campus. “We believe that a highly efficient, well-located corn wet mill ethanol plant fits well into our bio-product portfolio,” explained Allan Willits, president of Cargill’s corn milling business.

The company brought in Jerry Eilers, a veteran of Cargill’s corn milling business, who worked as both an engineer and project manager during his 40 years at facilities in Blair, Nebraska, and the Iowa towns of Cedar Rapids and Eddyville.

Jerry EilersJerry Eilers, a veteran of Cargill’s corn milling business, develops a vision to convert an abandoned corn mill into a world-class bio-refinery campus.

With the help of more than 600 contractors, Eilers and his crew adapted the ethanol plant design to meet the needs of Cargill’s corn milling facility. The Fort Dodge plant began grinding corn in October of 2013, first focusing on the development of a dextrose corn syrup for Cargill’s South Korean animal feed customer, CJ Bio America.

Today, the company’s bio-refinery campus produces ethanol, dextrose and Sweet Bran® feed for cattle. Most importantly, Cargill and CJ have together brought more than 350 new Cargill jobs to the Iowa community. Since Cargill’s arrival in Fort Dodge, the town has welcomed an additional 14 businesses, and nearly 40 new homes now line its streets. Fort Dodge’s newfound success is a model example of how Cargill’s innovative business decisions benefit not only the company, but also the local community.