The McGregor Co. - Creston, WA
There’s a plaque on the wall of the Creston, WA McGregor Company facility, a 2014 DuPont Regional Environmental Respect Award winner. It reads “industry, work, character, honesty, and fair dealing.” These words were attributed to Archie McGregor in 1885, the Great Uncle of Alex McGregor, current company president. “We live by these words,” explains Alex. “Our business started in about 1901 as a sideline of the family’s general store at the ranch headquarters in Hooper, Wash.”
But this story isn’t as much about the beginning in Hooper as it is about a beginning in Creston. The site now occupied by The McGregor Company came up for auction in 2011 and a 30-page summary of environmental issues on the site from the Washington Department of Ecology used words such as “nightmare,” an “environmental hazard, and “waste pit” to describe the facility and grounds.
“We had a stubborn belief that if we all pulled together we could create something of lasting value there,” said McGregor. “It’s part of our philosophy of putting down roots in communities for the long haul,” he added.
There was only one bidder at the auction to purchase the abandoned bio-diesel facility, an eyesore to the entire county, and that was Alex McGregor.
The McGregor Company Business Unit Manager Darrin Fleming lead the team assigned to tackle the newly acquired “ruins.” “It was a bit overwhelming,” said Fleming. “Due to improper storage and disposal methods, the building and tank farm were covered in slimy, oily filth. The clean-up stories recited by the McGregor employees can only be described as disgusting. “We thought the sagging ceiling was caused by a leaky roof,” said Jay Fisher, a veteran employee and key person in the cleanup and construction. “Turns out the cause was the weight of scores of rodents attracted to glycerin left behind from past operations.”
The rodents have moved on, forced out by may hours of power washing, construction and fresh paint inside the restored office, shop and chemical storage areas. Today, the operations are lead by team members Tyler Snow, service manager, and Matt Erwin, account manager. They look out of their recently renovated offices and see a state-of-the-art facility with eight new bulk tanks, two 30,000 gallon anhydrous tanks, extensive diking, a 100-foot digital scales and aqua ammonia converter. According to Snow, “Something close to a gazillion tons of gravel was brought in to level the lot and provide a clean stable surface for cement dikes, tanks, trucks and application equipment.”
The Washington State Department of Transportation became another key player in the site revival when it agreed to pay part of the cost of a new rail spur for bulk fertilizer tank cars. Special unloading facilities added to site safety operations. The McGregor crew has also volunteered anhydrous handling training for local rail employees.
The Creston story is about the new facility but it doesn’t end there. McGregor agronomic services are offered to local farmers who face some of the toughest growing conditions in the United States. They farm in the northern most latitudes for growing dry-land wheat, facing long, cold winters and an annual rainfall between 12 and 14 inches.
“PrecisionAg has really taken off here,” explains Matt Erwin. “To meet present and future customer demands we are developing a high-tech system call CropSync,” he said. “We are in the process of connecting our customer’s fields and all the corresponding agronomy to our inventory and accounting program.”
“We’ve seen how important swarth control has become to herbicide application, and we are developing this technology for the specialized fertilizer application equipment that we supply to many of our grower customers,” said Erwin. “Out here moisture is the limiting factor and we know there is soil variability, so we are looking at just how variable-rate fertilizer application could apply to these soils,” he explained.
The cleanup and restoration of the facility was not only an investment for the The McGregor Company, it also affected the community of Creston. Service Technician and Creston resident Ray Strozyk explained, “The locals see a company that puts both safety and the environment at the forefront. The residents really appreciate that we took the project on and cleaned up a part of their town.” Fred Morscheck, marketing and logistics manager added, “We’ve converted the property into something the community can be proud to drive by.”
The Creston team members are also actively contributing to the community. Erwin is currently teaching a weekly series on Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University and 43 community members are attending. Service Technician Trey Coffman is an emergency medical technician and member of the local fire department. Angie Duff finds time to teach four youth dance classes and cover accounting duties for three McGregor facilities including Creston.
“At McGregor we are extremely aware of the products we handle,” said Erwin. “We take training and stewardship as the most valuable thing we do, and we don’t want to lose any of these products. Similarily, Strozyk has a passion for the outdoors and feels that each person has a responsibility to be a good steward of the land so future generations can enjoy the same outdoor activities.
Alex McGregor summed up the spirit at the Creston facility, “Those in agriculture have long been known to be a community-minded group. We are focused on the long haul. We are dedicated people who care about farm families, the environment and the communities we serve.”