Plans cooking for grower-owned pasta plant

North Dakota State Roundup

Published July 1, 1992  | July 1992 issue

To meet the growing demand of pasta-eating Americans—nearly 30 pounds per person by the year 2000—North Dakota durum wheat growers have formed the Dakota Growers Pasta Co.

More than 900 growers have invested roughly $6,000 each to purchase shares in a new durum mill and pasta plant they hope will provide a new and steady market for their wheat and bolster the North Dakota economy.

The company recently received a vote of confidence from the Bank of North Dakota in the form of a $6.5 million loan, the largest loan that bank has ever granted. That loan spurred the St. Paul Bank of Cooperatives to extend another $20.9 million to the group.

All of these funds will go toward the $43 million needed to build the mill and plant, foreseen to be operational by November 1993. The company expects to employ 80 to 100 workers and produce up to 120 million pounds of pasta annually.

According to Jack Dalrymple, Dakota Growers board chairman, the pasta will be marketed to the food service industry, including institutions such as colleges and hotels; the ingredient sector, that is pasta for prepared foods; and the labeled retailer, for example, a grocery chain that sells pasta under its own label. Dalrymple says there are no plans at this time to enter the branded retail market. "The risks are higher and expenses greater." Dalrymple adds that the three intended market areas in total are higher in volume than the branded retail market.

Carrington, one of 27 communities that bid for the plant, was selected in late June to host the operation. Located 40 miles north of Jamestown, Carrington was chosen largely for its good transportation access.

Two other pasta companies currently operate plants in North Dakota, which produces 80 percent of the country's durum wheat for pasta: Philadelphia Macaroni Co. in Grand Forks and Noodles by Leonardo in Cando and Devils Lake.

Philadelphia Macaroni recently secured a contract to supply pasta to Quaker Oats, which will cause the plant to expand by over 50 percent and add at least 10 employees. And the state-owned mill will provide the plant with durum wheat.

Noodles by Leonardo opened its Devils Lake plant this spring and hopes to employ 125 people when it is in full production by January 1993.

In response to concerns that Dakota Growers might be one too many noodle in the pot, Dalrymple says, "That just shows you can do business in North Dakota and that people are looking for increased production.

"It's been an unfortunate history of the whole state," Dalrymple says. "Food processing was always down the river in Minneapolis. We're creating a new concept in the state by bringing processing close to the producers and in control of the producers."

Kathy Cobb