Natural Beauty

North Dakota is a natural location for food companies, with its long agricultural heritage.


"The state has abundant excellent water and low--cost energy (electricity and natural gas), with eight power generation plants in the state," Butts says. "We export 70 percent of the electricity we produce."

Finneman notes the state is working hard to develop the entire food chain and to utilize natural synergies between companies. "This means where one food processor can build off another food processor so secondary and third--level food processing opportunities can take advantage of some of the byproducts of other companies," he says.

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Red River Commodities Inc.

Snack Heaven

Red River Commodities Inc. chose to locate in Fargo, ND, to be close to its source of raw materials. "Right in our backyard stands one of the most unique and excellent growing regions for many of the specialty grains we need for our products," says Bob Majkrzak, president and CEO.

Sun Gold Foods, the finished food products division of Red River Commodities, produces a variety of soy bean and sunflower products as well as trail mixes. The company also produces pumpkin--kernel food snacks and specialty beans for human consumption and grains for bird seed production.

In fact, the company is an example of the North Dakota philosophy of using synergies between food production to create other products––and thereby other markets––from byproducts of the original human food products. "Our goal is to be as a tree--nut--free and peanut--free facility," says Majkrzak.

Another benefit to Red River’s location is its proximity to North Dakota State University, where the USDA agricultural research station for sunflowers is located. These food researchers helped Sun Gold develop its Sun Butter product and other specialty products. "They have been very helpful to us and they offer us a place to go to get answers," says Majkrzak.

Without help from state and university resources, Majkrzak says developing and launching new products such as Sun Butter would be a lot more difficult. "These incentives are a welcome shot in the arm for us."

Majkrzak says the Fargo location offers tremendous logistical benefits to the company. "We have easy access to Minneapolis, Seattle and Chicago via I--94; and I--29 gives us access from Winnipeg to Texas," he says.

Red River Commodities ships full containers of products such as sunflower kernel, flax, millet and specialty soybeans that are further processed by other companies as ingredients in producing baked goods.

"Germany, the Netherlands and Spain are the biggest overseas landing points receiving our products for baked goods," Majkrzak says. Containers travel by train (BNSF and then CSX) to Montreal, where they are loaded onto ships for the journey across the Atlantic.

The majority of its products shipped to U.S. receivers are sent by dry van. "Outbound capabilities from Fargo have been so good to the point that large companies we deal with––like Wal--Mart and Lowe’s––have found it very acceptable to pull large amounts of volume from this region," Majkrzak says.

On the inbound side, the company receives about 95 percent of its raw materials via hopper--bottom trucks.

North Dakota’s business incentives can be a great deciding factor for any business considering this location––or any other in the state, Majkrzak says.

"Fargo has put together a very aggressive economic development group that assists new business trying to enter the region. And the city doesn’t forget about the existing businesses already here and it continues taking care of existing businesses," he says.

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