Federal Grant Boosts Agriculture Export At Port Milwaukee

$31M Facility Planned Along Lake Michigan In Milwaukee

Agricultural Maritime Export Facility building plan
A Port Milwaukee official points to where the $31 million Agricultural Maritime Export Facility will be built. Corrinne Hess/WPR

Port Milwaukee is planning a new $31 million building along the western shore of Lake Michigan that will produce and export various agricultural products worldwide.

The Agricultural Maritime Export Facility will be the first and only on the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system specifically designed for the export of dry distillers grain (DDG) — a byproduct of ethanol production. The facility could also export soybeans, corn and grain.

“This investment adds a new dimension to Port Milwaukee’s role as a connector of Wisconsin’s businesses and farmers to world markets,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. “Waterborne commerce is what established Milwaukee and fueled its growth.”

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The new facility is the result of a $15.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration. The port is partnering with Clinton-based agricultural products wholesaler The DeLong Company, on the project.

DeLong is expected to lease space in the new building. Port Milwaukee currently leases property to more than 20 tenants engaged in commercial shipping and distribution. Commodities transported through the port include non-metal minerals, corn, coal, soybeans, peas, cement, concrete, sand, gravel and steel.

Once the Agricultural Maritime Export Facility is fully operational, the port estimates it will handle $40 million of DDG export. Barrett said the project will also create hundreds of jobs, although the exact number is unknown.

Port director Adam Schlicht said planning for the new building will take about a year, and the new facility will open in the next two to three years.

Redevelopment of the property includes demolition of an existing structure and construction of a new building, along with the installation of rail and truck hoppers connected to a conveyance system for the transport of material into the building.

“What we know here at the port is our customers are increasingly — with a dynamic and more complicated trade environment — they are looking for local opportunities to more effectively reach domestic and world markets,” Schlicht said. “We have every confidence this investment will help to continue that mission.”

As a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, voted for the port grant.

“Port Milwaukee moves Wisconsin’s manufactured goods and agricultural products to markets across the country and to the rest of the world,” Baldwin said.