Tom Kelley is no stranger to the new, giant Gage Brothers manufacturing facility in northeastern Sioux Falls. But even he continues to be impressed by its size.
He steps into the large concrete structure and points out the future use of some of its huge spaces, but then takes a moment to put it all in perspective.
“It looks big from the outside but it looks bigger from the inside, I think,” he said.
Kelley, president of Gage Brothers, was giving the Sioux Falls Business Journal a tour of the construction site of what will be the company’s massive, highly automated precast concrete manufacturing facility.
Gage Brothers has outgrown its location on West 12th Street, and over the last century the city has grown around the current site. Here, off Rice Street and Bahnson Avenue, is Gage Brothers’ future, the building for the company’s next century in business.
The numbers tell the tale. The building is 210,000 square feet, fitting 5 acres under its 40-foot-high roof.
The manufacturing building and the adjacent Gage Brothers headquarters building sits on 45 acres of land bought from the Sweetman family. The site sits atop an old sand quarry, but it came with a crucial special feature. The old sand quarry had a high bearing capacity – crucial for a huge, heavy building with lots of heavy equipment.
“This has the highest bearing capacity of any spot in town, and that’s a big deal,” he said. “It’s saved us a lot of money.”
Gage Brothers looked at relocating outside of Minnehaha County, but couldn’t find a better spot in terms of a location with a high bearing capacity. Now Gage Bothers is an anchor tenant for further development in the area.
The facility is a quantum leap for Gage Brothers in terms of streamlining precast concrete manufacturing and removing the outdoor element.
Gage Brothers has been considering finding a new home for some time. But the search really kicked into gear in 2011 when Kelley visited a technology event in Europe and realized Gage Brothers could make its products more efficiently.
“I said, ‘Wow, are we ever behind the times, there’s a lot better way to do what we do,'” he said.
At the moment, Gage Brothers largely manufactures its concrete components outside, across 13 different buildings, with the number of buildings, space constraints and storage creating an inefficient layout.
In the new facility, the production process will be heavily automated, and 95 percent inside, Kelley said.
“This is one smooth process from beginning to the end, all in one building,” he said.
Kelley spends extra time showing off the concrete mixing and circulating machinery attached to the east side of the building. Despite being outside and to one side, this is the heart and soul of the manufacturing facility – the automated equipment that mixes concrete and transports it to pouring.
“This is the technology. This is half the equipment allowance right here,” Kelley said, “This mix system, I call it the the circulatory system of the plant, this is a $5 million investment.”
Kelley traces the evolution of sand and rock into concrete that is mixed and delivered to customers automatically, run by computers fueled by 6,500 sensors.
“So what happens is, the end user just orders the concrete,” Kelley said. “He’ll say, ‘I’ll take mix 14 to bed No. 8 at 1020. There’s no people.”
The site includes 3.5 acres of outside, adjustable storage space, maneuverable with gantry cranes. Trucks can drive in and run under the crane for product pickup, cutting waiting periods and transport times.
“We were built on about a 25-load-a-day (capacity) at our existing plant, this one’s built for about 40,” Kelley said. “It’s going to be pretty busy out here.”
The construction is on schedule, and Gage Brothers plans to start moving into the building in September, into the offices on Dec. 1 and be entirely moved in Feb. 1.
The site is a popular one. Kelly regularly gives tours for civic groups and community leaders, and the company runs a weekly bus to the site to give Gage Brothers employees a sneak peek at their future home.
While construction continues, Kelley and his staff are working to juggle running regular operations, oversee the new construction, plan future development of the current 12th Street site and chart out how to move production processes from the old site to the new one.
“It’s going to stress everyone, no question about it, but it’s exciting for everyone, too, because it’s really a fresh start,” Kelley said. “(The old location was) old and tired and it’s time, so I think people are excited about the opportunity.”