BAY CITY, MI – A large crowd was gathered under a tent in one of Michigan Sugar’s beet piling fields in Bay County’s Monitor Township, awaiting what the company stated was a historic announcement.
“Things are about to get even sweeter,” said Rob Clark, Michigan Sugar director of communications to the crowd.
Michigan Sugar Company announced to the gathered crowd, which included local and state officials, on Tuesday, Aug. 24 that it is planning to invest more than $65 million to construct a desugarization facility at its factory located at 2600 S. Euclid Ave. in Bay County’s Monitor Township. The factory is commonly known as the company’s “Bay City factory”.
“This enormous undertaking, investment, and commitment by our grower-owners will have a multi-generational impact for our cooperative,” said Mark S. Flegenheimer, President and CEO of Michigan Sugar. “This is a historic day for our owners, our employees, our customers and our community.”
The project is expected to begin in fall 2021 and is scheduled to take 18 to 24 months to complete, according to Flegenheimer. Once operational, the company is expecting to process as much as 650 tons of molasses daily, up from the current amount of 325 tons per day. According to information provided by Michigan Sugar, the company currently has the capacity to extract additional sugar from 60% of its molasses. The new facility will allow the company to extract additional sugar from 100% of its molasses.
“Simply put, we can sell sugar at a higher price than we sell molasses,” he said. “Our nearly 900 grower-owners will see added annual revenue of $10 million to $15 million, in perpetuity.”
“The $65 million shows our commitment not only to this industry and this community and our employees but our customers as well. We’re excited about the growth and opportunity that today’s announcement creates,” added Flegenheimer.
Michigan Sugar Company is made up of grower-owners that are spread out across about 20 Michigan counties, as well as Ontario, Canada. The 13-member Co-op Board of Directors approved the desugarization project earlier this year. For the grower-owners like Adam Herford of Elkton, this project is an investment in sustainability.
“It allows us to produce up to 80 million more pounds of sugar annually without having to plant another acre of sugar beets. That makes this story a story about sustainability,” said Herford, who also serves as a board chairman. “It means 80 million more pounds of sugar without any additional passes over our farm field with our equipment, without any further spraying of our crops to ward off disease and pests and without burning any additional fuel on our farms to expand operations. It’s truly a win-win for all involved.”
Michigan’s Sugar $65 million plus investment into Bay City facility was done in partnership and coordination with Bay Future, Monitor Township officials and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, according to Bay Future president and CEO Trevor Keyes. Keyes emphasized the impact that this project will have on Bay County and tis economy.
“As one of Bay County’s top employers, the impact of this project will have a ripple effect throughout Bay County, providing both direct and indirect benefits across businesses and to community members who call Bay County home,” he said.
Monitor Township Supervisor Terry Spencer echoed Keyes sentiment, stating that the township depends greatly on Michigan Sugar as pillar of its economy since it is one of the township’s largest taxpayers and employers.
“This company literally invests millions of dollars each year to improve its facilities and operations,” he said. “Michigan Sugar’s factories are among the oldest in the world, but inside they are filled with state-of-the-art equipment and technology. We are so fortunate the company’s grower-owners have continued to invest in these factories and these communities year after year after year.”
As part of the $65 million-plus investment, Michigan Sugar Company plans to add $4 million in juice softening equipment at its factory in Caro and its factory in Sebewaing. Vice president of operations Jason Lowry explained that when factories desugar molasses, they need the molasses to be soft.
“We have juice softening equipment already in Bay City and we installed juice softening equipment at our factory in Croswell as part of a $70 million capital upgrade of that facility over the past six years,” Lowry said. “Now, we’ll add that equipment in Caro and Sebewaing, which means those factories, and those communities also will benefit from our investment.”
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