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FRIDAY, MAY 27, 2005
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Bunge expansion to breathe life into Decatur port

By Jay Wilson
DAILY Staff Writer

jwilson@decaturdaily.com 340-2440

A Port of Decatur official said a Bunge expansion will bring jobs to Decatur's river port and provide stability for the port's parent company, Decatur Transit Inc.

"We'll probably add three to five employees," said Rick Terry, vice president of marketing for Decatur Transit. "They'll be good-paying jobs."

Terry said Decatur Transit signed an agreement with Bunge North America, a food and ingredient company that processes soybeans and grain.

Bunge recently announced plans to build a facility for unloading barges and storing grain at the port on Alabama 20.

"We'll operate it for them," Terry said.

Terry said the port will need additional boat pilots, crane operators and facility operators.

"It's a great shot in the arm for us. We're a privately held, employee-owned company," Terry said. "What it means more for Decatur Transit and the people who've worked here for a long time ... it means stability."

Terry said the port struggled in the last four or five years, and this announcement brightens the future for all of Decatur Transit. The location is strategic for Bunge, as it can load both trucks and rail cars from there, according to a Bunge news release.

Jeremy Nails, vice president of the Morgan County Economic Development Association, said he has noticed an upswing in companies interested in river transportation.

"More companies are inquiring about barge transportation, especially for bulky or heavy items" Nails said.

With transportation and raw materials costs pushing steadily upward, companies are looking for more efficient and cost-effective methods of moving their shipments, Nails said.

Gold Kist, the country's third largest poultry company, signed a supplier agreement with Bunge as part of the expansion. Bunge will make regular shipments of poultry feed products to Gold Kist from the new facility, said Bunge spokeswoman Deb Seidel.

Bunge processes soybeans in Decatur and, according to Terry, will use the new facility to unload and store soybeans as well as grain, grain products and dried distillers grain from other Bunge plants.

Gold Kist entered a supply agreement with Bunge in conjunction with the expansion, which provides Bunge a more cost-effective way of shipping feed grains from outside Decatur to Gold Kist.

Gold Kist operates poultry facilities in Russellville, Boaz, Guntersville and Trussville. Gold Kist President and Chief Executive Officer John Bekkers said the Port of Decatur facility would assure a consistent supply of grain to two of Gold Kist's most strategic feed mills. Bekkers did not name the two facilities.

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