State-of-the-art plant adds 12 new, high-paying jobs

by Cut Bank Pioneer Press, LeAnne Kavanagh

Roger and Lisa Sammons are definitely overachievers. When the owners of Pardue Grain invited dignitaries, local business owners and customers, vendors and contractors to the “groundbreaking” of their new pulse crop processing facility, they forgot to mention the facility’s construction is well underway! Last Friday’s ceremony was merely a formality as the Sammons and their hard-working crew are looking forward to doing business in the new state-of-the art facility in September, just in time for the 2018 harvest.

“Pardue Grain is going to be able to increase Montana producers’ access to foreign and domestic markets for value-added and Montana-branded products. We are creating jobs and paying higher wages on the Blackfeet Reservation and in Glacier County,” said Sammons. “It’s a solid-based agricultural business and any time that we can add value to our crops before we send them out of Montana, it’s a win-win,” he said.

The $5.7 million toll processor facility will include a food-grade processing line for pulse crops, which include chickpeas, peas and lentils. The new facility will add 12 high-paying jobs, including a food safety coordinator, a transportation and logistics manager, and shift foremen and plant operators.

At the July 6 groundbreaking, Sammons explained, “Our business model is that of a toll processor and transloader. With this new food grade processing line we will create the opportunity of new markets for the buyers and producers we deal with. We can also help producers with market entry should they choose to develop their own brand.”

Sammons described most processing plants in the state as “captive and somewhat protective of their processing procedures” but their operation will be “completely transparent.” Pardue Grain intends to secure an organic crop certification and SQF2 food safety designation, he added.

“With the investment we are making in technology, we will have the ability to integrate producer’s data, should they choose, and have unmatched traceability in the pulse processing industry with the least amount of energy consumption possible.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, who was instrumental in helping Roger and Lisa Sammons secure a $5 million loan from the USDA Rural Development Program, spoke briefly at the event. “This is pretty neat,” said Sen. Tester, who is the only farmer in the U.S. Senate and Montana’s lone voice on the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Thanks to all of your hard work, you’re making a significant impact on this community and those across Montana. You’re growing our economy and creating jobs-and that is something to be proud of.”

Sen. Tester continued, “Montana raises the best grains, the best livestock and the best pulses in the Nation.” He credited Roger and Lisa with “taking a chance” and believing that with hard work and vision they get things done…This is what Montana is all about.”

Other speakers at the event included Greg Stordahl, Montana Department of Agriculture, Blackfeet Tribal Business Council Chairman Harry Barnes and Glacier County Commission Chairman Michael DesRosier.

In addressing the crowd of over 100 people, Sammons was quick to recognize the contributions of his dedicated employees. “It took an amazing team to bring this plan together,” he stated.

He praised the work of many contractors on the project, including Levi Clark of Hybrid Steel Design, who is the general contractor of the pulse processing equipment installation; Thad Burkhartseyer and Jeremiah Johnson of J Bar T Construction, the general contractors of many of the new structures; and Andrew Bishop, who Sammons described as “without a doubt the most instrumental person in the project.” Bishop and Claude Smith designed the state-of-the-art food grade processing line that is unique to the industry and makes its debut in the Pardue facility.

Sammons expressed the couple’s appreciation to Ryan Eney and the staff at First Interstate Bank in Cut Bank for “their hard work and persistence” in the loan preparation and approval process. “Ryan took the time and effort to learn and understand a business model that was unproven, yet very promising.” Other key players in assisting with securing financial and working capital for the project were Great Falls Development Authority and USDA Rural Development.

“I am overwhelmed with gratitude,” said Sammons. “I thank God for the gifts he has given me, including my supportive wife, Lisa; and children, Sage and Sierra, who travelled many miles to be here today; and for the fortitude and tenacity to bring this project to fruition. And I am truly thankful for the awesome contingency of pulse crop customers and quality producers we have in our market area,” he concluded