Egg Innovationsfeed mill opens in Cromwell’
Open for business
By Octavia Yoder
Posted: Thursday, November 12, 2015 11:00 pm
Almost a year after suffering extensive damage to its Pierceton feed mill in a fire, Warsaw-based Egg Innovations celebrated the opening of a new high-tech feed mill in Cromwell.
Egg Innovations unveiled the new facility during an open house Oct. 28 that included community members, agricultural leaders and Indiana Department of Agriculture director Ted McKinney.
After the Pierceton feed mill was destroyed, Egg Innovations’ president and founder, John Brunnquell, had to make a decision: rebuild or a find new location.
The company needed to be able to supply its network of farmers with chicken feed. Brunnquell said the Pierceton facility was landlocked and had little room for future expansion. So he considered building on property the company had just purchased in the spring of 2014 to use for storage during the off-season – the former Cromwell grain elevator.
The Cromwell location had its perks. It was right next to a rail spur and had 28 acres for future growth, Brunnquell said. It also had a negative: The only entrance to the facility was on S.R. 5. Traffic to and from the facility could cause congestion on the state highway.
To entice Egg Innovations’ development, the Cromwell Town Council offered to give the company a five-year tax abatement and set up the tax increment financing district needed to build a new access on Olive Street.
Initially, the company had projected its mill to cost about $3.8 million, but Brunnquell said the investment on the property at North Jefferson Street has been about $5 million.
The town has now established a Redevelopment Commission that would oversee a TIF district. By using the TIF, Cromwell could finance construction of the new Olive Street entrance, and the debt would be paid off as the new feed mill comes onto the town’s tax rolls.
Noble County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Rick Sherck worked with the town to help facilitate the project. Because Cromwell lacks the infrastructure that would entice a big industry, the town needs to focus on other things it can offer, Sherck said.
Tax revenue from Egg Innovation’s feed mill eventually will make up nearly 20 percent of the town’s tax base, he said.
“This is a great addition to the Cromwell community. It’s a good fit for them,” Sherck said. “It’s a great fit; it’s in the middle of ag country.”
Cromwell Clerk-Treasurer Bob Leamon said the town is pursuing a comprehensive planning grant to help shape the future direction of the community.
“I’m glad we could help negotiate a deal,” Leamon said.
Until the Cromwell feed mill was built, Egg Innovations had to rely on other feed mills for its organic and non-GMO grain.
“We are essentially back in business making our own grain,” Brunnquell said. “One of our hopes with this facility is to create a long-term, permanent customer for local farmers.”
The feed mill is the largest identity preserve mill in the state of Indiana, Brunnquell said, meaning it only will produce organic and non-GMO feed. It will not handle conventional corn or soybeans.
Because the facility is fully automated, the company only needs two people to operate the mill. In a single day, the facility can produce nearly 250 tons of grain.
Brunnquell started Egg Innovations in his home state of Wisconsin, on a family homestead that dates back to 1913. His goal for the company is to help future generations of family farmers. In 1999, he moved the headquarters to Indiana.
The company produces free-range and pasture-raised eggs under the brand Blue Sky Farms. The company’s motto is, “Leading the humane race.”
“We subscribe to the philosophy of letting chickens be chickens,” Brunnquell said.
Farmers provide the building and on-site management to raise the chickens, and Egg Innovations feeds the birds. The company works with local family farms in the Midwest and has made a commitment to providing them with good financial returns, Brunnquell said.
“We pay the highest rates in the industry. A farmer can put up a barn and produce for us and make a good living,” Brunnquell said.
Blue Sky Farms eggs can be found at more than 550 grocery stores in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio and Kentucky. Local retailers include Martin’s and Kroger.
Recently, the company entered Whole Foods Market’s Mid-Atlantic division, including stores in Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Washington, D.C.