Local support helps Western Sugar expand operations, markets in Torrington – VIDEO
TORRINGTON, Wyo. — The manager of Western Sugar Cooperative’s Torrington factory patted his palm against the white brick wall and smiled. The cavernous warehouse swallowed the sound.
The compound has grown in fits and starts since 1926. Each structure bears the construction style of its era: Brick here, wood and concrete there. Tom Briggs knows every bit of the factory’s 90 years. He craned his neck to look at the vaulted ceilings.
Before the silos were installed, workers stacked 100 lbs. bags of sugar to the roof.
“That’s what the ladders way up there were for,” said Briggs, pointing.
Today, those white silos full of as many as one million pounds of sugar dominate the skyline as visitors enter Torrington from the south. Ranchettes at the edge of the agricultural town melt away into the small industrial district, of which Western Sugar is the heart.
In May 2015, the future of Western Sugar in Torrington looked grim. Company officials announced they were shuttering the facility in favor of expanding the factories in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Fort Morgan, Colorado.
That’s when the local economic development organization entered the conversation.
“With economic development, we want to always keep the pulse on our local businesses,” said Ashley Harpstreith, executive director of the Goshen County Economic Development Corporation. “Following the announcement, our board was quick to look for an opportunity to partner with Western Sugar and work with them on their exit strategy.”
Out of those talks emerged a silver lining. Colorado-based Western Sugar, the country’s fourth largest sugar producer, decided to expand its powdered sugar line. The development meant 12 new jobs in the Torrington shipping and packaging division. The company also installed new equipment in the sugar mill.
About 55 workers are performing maintenance. Another 25 are working on the warehouse floor. Reduced work at Western Sugar is still a blow, Torrington officials said, but they welcomed the good news.
“It’s not so doom and gloom,” Harpstreith said. “There is still some investment here, and powdered sugar is an ingredient used in a lot of different processes. We’re looking for vendors interested in being closer to the raw material.”
When Goshen County economic developers find those vendors, there will already be a site for them conveniently located across the street from Western Sugar at the Cold Springs Business Park.
“It’s not just them closing the doors and shutting the lights off,” Harpstreith said. “They still add a lot of value here.”
One big advantage for Western Sugar in maintaining its Torrington plant is access to the Union Pacific rail, which provides cheaper and more direct transport to the company’s customers nationwide.
The value of the sugar factory to Torrington extends beyond just jobs. Briggs said the company supports local sports teams, sponsors school events and is in constant contact with government and economic development officials.
“Western Sugar has been a key, cornerstone business and industry in our community,” Harpstreith said. “We want to do whatever we can do to keep a part of them here. The packing and shipping is a huge process, and that’s a big asset the community.”
Read more by Tom Dixon, Senior Communications Specialist, Wyoming Business Council. Photo and video courtesy of Western Sugar.