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Great Plains plans expansion at Ellsworth

POSTED: December 14, 2012 7:00 a.m.

Great Plains Manufacturing plans to start clearing ground in December on an expansion that will equal a little more than 10 percent of the space the company now occupies in Ellsworth.
Great Plains, which is headquartered in Salina, builds tillage equipment in the 129,000-square-foot building it purchased in early 2008. The equipment is distributed nationally and internationally.
The addition on the north side of the existing building will cover 15,750 square feet. The Great Plains plant stands along Kansas Highway 156 on the east edge of Ellsworth.
Linda Salem, the company’s chief operating officer, said plans call for the expansion to be finished in May; however, weather could delay completion.
“Should we ever have rain again, that could slow us down,” she said.
Salem said the expansion is necessary because of the need for more manufacturing and warehouse space.
Company officials originally said Great Plains would eventually have 50 employees in Ellsworth. Instead, the plant now employs 135 and — while there is no set goal on future jobs — Salem said the expansion will allow “us to keep growing as demand for the product grows.”
“We didn’t know we were going to need [so much space] when we started,” she said. “This has been a good investment for Great Plains ... It has been a good partnership with the city.”
City administrator Tim Vandall said  he was “thrilled” to learn about the Great Plains expansion. The only tax break the manufacturer will receive is through the city-county Neighborhood Revitalization Plan, which will rebate 70 percent of Great Plains’ increased property taxes the first year. The rebate will be reduced to 50 percent by the fifth year before it expires.
Great Plains Manufacturing is family-owned and homegrown. Company president Roy Applequist said small towns have been good for his business.
“We’ve been working in small towns every since we started — about 32 years ago,” Applequist said in 2008 in announcing the company’s purchase of the Ellsworth plant, the former Ell-Kan building.
“We understand how to run plants in small towns. It’s how we run our business. We like to be in small communities and it has worked out for us.”
Great Plains has more than 1,400 employees at seven plants, including in the towns of Assaria, Lucas, Kipp, Abilene, Enterprise and Tipton.
The company also has an agreement with the Kansas Department of Corrections for welding work to be done by inmates inside the fence at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility.
Salem said Great Plains just recently finished a 63,000-square-foot expansion in Salina. She said growth is coming from both domestic and overseas business.
“The ag economy is strong and we expect that will continue,” she said.

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