Jeramey Jannene
Friday Photos

What’s That Big, New Tower at The Port?

Largest port investment in 60 years is beginning to materialize. See it from the Hoan Bridge.

By - Jul 8th, 2022 04:05 pm
DeLong's Agricultural Maritime Export Facility under construction. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

DeLong’s Agricultural Maritime Export Facility during construction. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The largest investment in Milwaukee’s port since the Saint Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 is taking shape.

The new $35 million facility, which will be operated by the Clinton-based DeLong Company, will be primarily used for exporting a nutrient-rich byproduct of converting corn to ethanol to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Led by Governor Tony Evers and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking in October, but there wasn’t much to see as the site was still a gravel lot amidst the 467-acre port. Instead of turning over dirt, dignitaries tossed shovels of something referred to as DDGS, or dry distillers grain with solubles, the primary product that will be exported from the facility.

Now the future footprint of the inner harbor facility is clearly visible. A metal tower, wrapped in an open-air staircase, is visible from the Hoan Bridge. It’s part of the conveyance system to move DDGS through the complex, and ultimately, onto ships. The sizable footprint of the product storage building is also visible, with a concrete foundation poured.

The new complex will play a critical transloading role in connecting Wisconsin’s nine ethanol plants as well as those in southern Minnesota, northern Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota with foreign markets where animal feed is in short supply. It will also enable exports of other farm products.

DeLong already coordinates DDGS exports, via shipping containers and coastal ports, to Asia. But the new facility will provide a purpose-built facility and logistics network to compete in many more markets. It will also allow DeLong to avoid using shipping containers that are ill-suited for the moisture-laden product and in increasingly short supply.

A rail yard, capable of storing 110 hopper cars, and a truck terminal, will feed into storage facilities that can store 45,000 metric tons (1.7 million bushels) of the byproduct. Located directly adjacent to the inner harbor, the facility will then be capable of loading 6,000 metric tons of the byproduct per day into vessels that can carry 10,000 to 20,000 metric tons. Project partners hope to export between 160,000 to 300,000 metric tons annually, with an estimated $40 million worth of goods being shipped in the first year.

“The facility will open Wisconsin’s maritime and agricultural economies to new international markets for this commodity and many others,” said director Adam Tindall-Schlicht at the groundbreaking. Corn and soybeans are also expected to be exported through the facility, according to a February 2021 report.

Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson said it builds on Wisconsin’s strengths. “First, it invests in the largest city. Second, it invests in agriculture,” he said at the ceremony.

A 2020 port report said that the project would eliminate 1,600 truck trips annually. Six of Wisconsin’s nine ethanol plants currently truck DDGS past Milwaukee to an intermodal facility in Joliet, IL where standardized shipping containers are available. Ocean-bound products coming from plants and farms outside of Wisconsin are expected to arrive via rail.

“This is a marriage of the happy family of the city, state, Wisconsin Department of Transportation and federal government,” said Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee). The federal government is contributing $15.89 million via a grant, WisDOT is contributing $6.15 million, the city (via borrowing) is contributing $5.7 million and DeLong is contributing $7 million.

DeLong is leasing a 4.42-acre site, 1711 S. Carferry Dr., from the city-owned port and will own the facility built atop it. The company will pay approximately $3.5 million in lease payments over 30 years. If DeLong doesn’t renew its lease, the port will have an option to buy the facility.

According to a February 2021 presentation from DeLong, the facility will create four to six on-site, full-time jobs. “The biggest thing is it will open new markets for hundreds of Wisconsin farmers,” said firm vice president Bo DeLong.

According to a DeLong representative, DeLong has hired Michels Corp. to perform site work on the property. The Scharine Group will construct the conveyance systems. Legacy Building Solutions will build the flat storage building.

The new complex will accept deliveries on the east side of S. Carferry Dr. and transfer materials overhead to storage facilities on the harbor side of the street. Those storage buildings include a 19-inlet flat storage building and multiple upright storage silos made of galvanized steel. Disused buildings on the site were demolished earlier this year.

The facility is expected to be fully operational in April 2023.



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4 thoughts on “Friday Photos: What’s That Big, New Tower at The Port?”

  1. Mingus says:

    This is such a great project. I am wondering when Republican lawmakers will file suit in court because somebody’s rights are being violated?

  2. Dennis Grzezinski says:

    Wait, what? DeLong puts up only $7 million, the public puts up $28 million, and DeLong gets to own the facility. The Port’s total rent over 30 years is only a little more than half of what the City is contributing to building the facility, and the City has an option to buy it from DeLong if DeLong does not renew the lease in 30 years? What is the sales price in 30 years if the City wants to buy it?

  3. says:

    The drawings do not show context around the site. Is there a reason that inbound and outbound product are not situated in 2 buildings on either side of the load/unload facilities?

    It doesn’t seem efficient to send and retrieve so much product so far when most round trips could be cut in approximately half. Are there storage factors such as temperature and humidity control whose costs would be greater than the distance factor under a 2-building configuration? Ship position restrictions?

    Otherwise, congratulations and good luck all around.

  4. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Marty – If I understand your question, there is a ground-based unloading facility on the east side of the street because that is where the rail yard is (and space for trucks). The material will come in and then be stored in the building that fills the space between the street and water on the west side of the street (transported by an overhead conveyor system).

    When a ship comes in, it will empty the building next to the water.

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