ROCK ISLAND — A new manufacturing facility in Rock Island will bring dozens of new jobs to the area, corporate and city leaders announced at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday.
Agrisolutions opened its new 110,000 sq. ft. facility in southwest Rock Island. Their previous site, in Milan, was about one-fourth the size.
“We opened this facility because we wanted room to grow,” Agrisolutions President Tom Welke said in a speech. “A big part of what helped us come to expand in Rock Island was the support of the community and economic development group.”
At its capacious new home, Agrisolutions has quintupled its number of shipping docks to 10. Company leaders said they hope to more than triple employment from 30 workers to around 100 employees over the next few years.
The new facility, at 4415 85th Ave. W, has already drawn new investment. The robotics alone cost more than $1 million, said Tim Dunn, president of Trinity Logistics, a Quad-Cities brand acquired by Agrisolutions last year.
The new Agrisolutions facility in Rock Island was turned around quickly, Dunn said, after work started in the fall of last year.
Chandler Poole, Rock Island community and economic development director, praised the property owners, company and city staff for “working hard to make sure that this was a home,” he said. “Negotiations were wonderful. Normally, they can get really nasty, as all of you know in business. They can just be a nightmare. But this was, ‘how do we make it go?’ ”
On a tour of the plant, crew members touted the benefits of the space’s modern equipment. A robotic laser system, for instance, can self-monitor, self-adjust and even self-clean while responding live to new inputs. One worker said it can functionally operate itself over the course of several hours.
The size of the new space will yield other benefits, including new equipment arrangements that will boost efficiency, workers said.
“In the old facility, everyone was separate,” said coordinator Abou Sy. “In this new one, everything is together. … This process is very efficient.”
On Thursday Sy was overseeing a manufacturing line that produced steel disc blades for use on farms. He estimated that around 6,000 blades are made per two shift periods. In the last 11 years, Agrisolutions has produced almost 10 million such blades in the Quad-Cities area.
The blades are one example of the company’s parts manufacturing, an operation that is closely tied to John Deere & Co. The vast majority of the blades, Sy said, will be sold to Deere.
Agrisolutions has been manufacturing discs in the Quad-Cities since 2008. The company has made “partner status” with Deere for 8 years, a reflection of its close ties to the ag behemoth.
Corporate leaders also talked about the up-down cycle of the agriculture industry, which they likened to a rocket ship — one that has recently been on a downward trajectory. Punishing weather and an ongoing U.S.-Chinese trade war has strained farmers and manufacturers across the country. Prices for crops such as soybeans are dropping, and the ripple effects are expected to harm other parts of the economy as well.
“Agriculture is very cyclical,” said Dunn. “When times are good and Deere’s going great, we’re busy as we can be. When they’re slow, we’ve got to learn to manage through that downturn.”
Still, Agrisolutions leaders were bullish about the company’s growth. The new Rock Island facility has around 30,000 sq. ft. of empty space waiting to be filled with equipment and workers.
In his speech, Robert “Butch” Mandel, principal owner, promised that Rock Island will “be proud to have us as a member of the community.”
He added, “There is no question in my mind that we are going to be a leader in this industry for years and years to come.”