“This is a very, very momentous moment for Westlock Terminals,” began Dave Felstad. “We’ve come a long, long way from a small beginning.” The large crowd before him was gathered to celebrate what is possible when people are passionate about an idea and gather others together to make it happen. Dave was the first speaker at the grand opening of Westlock Terminal’s (WLT) new steel grain terminal last Friday, November 5. In 2002 Dave Felstad was among a group of farmers and investors who weren’t willing to let our local elevator die when Agricore decided to abandon it. New legislation in the Alberta government pertaining to New Generation Cooperatives enabled them to get the necessary funding in the form of share capital. Robert and I were among those who bought the first $1.2 million in shares, with no guarantee that this business would really work.Farmers alone couldn’t have made it happen. It took the support of the Town of Westlock, and non-farm investors together with the farming community to be able to buy the aging elevator system from Agricore. They began operations in the fall of 2002 under the name of Westlock Terminals NGC. Now WLT boasts 295 shareholders and $3.3 million in share capital.
In its eight years in business $1.2 million has been repaid to the shareholders in dividends. “That’s money that used to leave this town to the Viterras and other big companies,” says Stephane Gervais, controller of WLT. That’s significant for a small community like Westlock.
That first year 40,000 tonnes of grain were taken into the terminal. Now the facility handles 180,000 tonnes of grain a year. The terminal management expects the 2010/11 crop year to be another record breaking year for them.
The grand opening marks the end of the third expansion phase. A high-speed facility, the new terminal can move grain about three times faster than what was possible before. The most up-to-date technology gives staff the ability to load a 50 car spot in under 10 hours, and they hope to load several 100 car spots this winter, giving them a definite edge.
There was a big grain company meeting in the second year of operation of WLT. Two of the ‘big boys’ told Dave, “You’re not going to be in business two years from now” adding, “We’re going to kill you.”
Westlock Terminals NGC is far from dead. “This thing’s only got one way to go, and that’s up!” says present chairman Harry DeWindt.
Dave’s closing words were, “This terminal serves as a source of inspiration for others.” He tells everyone “we’re not any smarter than you are. If we could do it, you could too.”
The success story of our local elevator is a tribute to the very exceptional board, staff and the community support that made it happen. We are all very proud, very excited to be part of it.