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North Dakota Mill celebrates its centennial with facility tours, evening event

Employees, executives cite positive work culture as rewarding aspects of their jobs.

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Travis Devlin, director of milling at the North Dakota Mill, answers questions during a tour on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022. The state-owned mill is celebrating its 100th anniversary.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – Hundreds of community members assembled at the North Dakota Mill on Thursday to commemorate the facility's 100th anniversary.

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Greg Jarrett looks at durum wheat being milled during a tour of the North Dakota Mill on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Vance Taylor, CEO and president of the North Dakota Mill and Elevator Association, praised the organization’s culture and vision.

“The most rewarding aspect of my position is the people I work with,” said Taylor. “Our employees have a great work ethic. We recently finished construction on two new mills, and refurbished a third.”

Tamra Srnsky, who has served as director of human resources for eight years, concurred with Taylor’s assessment of the company’s work environment.

“This is a wonderful place to work,” said Srnsky. “Some of our employees have spent their entire careers with us, upwards of 40 years.”

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The facility consists of 10 milling units, which process 130,000 bushels of wheat daily, according to its website, and employs approximately 180 people. The mill processes primarily North Dakota wheat, with some imports coming from surrounding states.

Kevin Ayotte, grain terminal supervisor, and Travis Devlin, director of milling, led tours of the facility during Thursday's anniversary celebration. Attendees observed machinery that sifts, cleans and processes wheat into flour.

It's the largest single-site mill in the western hemisphere, according to Devlin, and is the only publicly owned mill in the United States. It opened on Oct. 20, 1922.

These days, the facility operates 24 hours a day, from 330 to 350 days a year. In a report published last week in the Herald , Taylor said the mill does approximately $400 million in sales per year and half of the profits go back into the state's general fund — an average of about $7 million annually in recent years.

Ayotte said the mill has grown steadily in the 28 years he has been employed there.

“The facility is three times larger than it was when I started,” said Ayotte. “We’ve constructed new buildings, with more improvements on the way.”

Devlin said he is looking forward to additions to the facility. A major project under development is a wheat middlings handling facility. Middlings is a byproduct that is produced when wheat is processed into flour.

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Cari and Ed Barchenger walk through the North Dakota Mill during a tour on the 100th anniversary of the state-owned mill on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

“The handling facility will allow us to process our byproducts more efficiently,” said Devlin. “By improving our efficiency, we will be able to free up capacity to capitalize on emerging trends in the wheat market. We’ll be able to offer our customers more of what they want, and increase profitability.”

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Devlin and Vance expect the handling facility to be completed by February 2024.

Refreshments were served Thursday as attendees socialized in a tent constructed for the event. Each attendee was offered a complimentary 10-pound bag of flour produced at the mill.

The mill’s centennial celebration continued with a dinner ceremony at Sky’s Cloud Nine Event Center in downtown Grand Forks. Members of the North Dakota Industrial Commission, which oversees the mill’s operations, spoke at the event, along with U.S. Sen. John Hoeven.

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