The North Bend Eagle

  Salty robot
After the bags are filled, a robot arm stacks the bags of salt.
The system can put out 20 50-pound bags a minute.

Business salty in Quonsets east of North Bend

by Nathan Arneal
Published 11/8/17

Some old farm buildings east of North Bend have been recycled to house a growing business, and the arrangement is proving worth its salt.

Salt dyeBilly Benefield adds blue dye to the salt before he dumps it into the mixer. Usually the dye is added through its own tube straight to the mixer, but on this day freezing temperaturs were causing problems.

A set of six Quonset huts with some grain bins were first built two miles east of North Bend on Highway 30 in 1949, owner Mike Eason said.

After their life as grain storage, Eason rented out the Quonsets for storage. That’s where True North Outdoor came in, a company that dabbles in many areas, including landscaping, fireworks and snow removal.

True North Omaha branch manager Mike Ware and Eason have known each other for years, and about 10 years ago the company started renting Eason’s Quonsets for storage.

About a year ago True North decided to expand its snow removal business to include ice melt salt. The closest companies that sell road salt are in Chicago and Milwaukee, Ware said, so the North Bend site was transformed into Midwest Bagging.

Salt is trucked in from mines in Hutchison, Kansas, and deposited in a covered depot True North built on the Eason site. There is the regular road salt with chunks about a quarter inch in diameter and premium salt that is a finer grain.

From there, warehouse manager Billy Benefield uses a compact track loader to scoop the salt into a mixer. A dye is added for color.

“I can add any color I want to it,” Benefield said, “I can make it red, make it blue, make it green.”

On this day, blue dye was being added. Magnesium chloride and a corn-based product are also added, which allows the ice melt to work in temperatures as low as 20 degrees below zero.

 

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