The Sublette Elevator is a place that values the community and the people who help support them. As an elevator, they continuously buy and sell grain to generate a profit that they can then share with their stockholders and patronage who have bought products from their lumber, feed, fertilizer, ammo, and general store supply. Of all the grain the Sublette Elevator attains, about 90% of the corn is trucked to the ethanol plant, Marquis Energy in Hennepin Illinois which I had the privilege to tour.
Marquis Energy is the biggest dry ethanol plant in America with production of just about 400 million barrels of ethanol a year. The plant intakes between 500 and 550 trucks a day from surrounding elevators to meet their production goals. It is a 24-hour facility that takes trucks from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Not only do they make traditional grade ethanol, but they also have two tanks dedicated to pharmaceutical grade alcohol that they use when they are outsourced to make cleaning supplies and sanitizers. In 2016 they doubled in size from making just about 200 million barrels to the 400 million they are capable of today. Ethanol plants use a lot of water in the form of steam in the fermentation process. Marquis Energy implemented a piece of machinery that recycles the steam and evaporates the water out of it before it is released so at least some of the water used can be reused again. The plan operates on the structure of redundancy as well. They are currently building a third scale with a probe so if one of their other two breaks, they still can operate. The facility has little to no storage of the grain they intake because they believe in turning the corn right into production, but even though they don’t have storage on the facility grounds, doesn’t mean they aren’t a part of elevators trying to build more storage. Marquis contracted their grain extremely far out this year because of the drought on the western side of the corn belt. They wanted to ensure they had enough grain to sustain their production. If something was to happen and they did not need grain in one month but wanted the elevator to carry it to the next month, Marquis works to pay the elevator the interest they have on that carry to justify them storing it. The Marquis cousins who pioneered this facility come from a family who used to own a community elevator, so they value and only buy from the community elevators in the area instead of large corporate ones.
The Marquis cousins, Dave and Mark, built their business model on needing two things, quality people and quality location. They lucked out on the quality location piece as they are right off the Illinois river and send most of their ethanol to New Orleans via barge. Next, they value their employees and give them benefits such as lunch every day and company vehicles, so they know they are valued. While Marquis has doubled in size with 11 tanks and 1 beer well, they are expanding their production to biofuels as they are looking to build a bean crush plant in the next two years.
It was truly amazing to see the journey in which corn comes to the elevator, leaves, and what it is made into. As a daughter of a corn producer and the many experiences I have had with the Sublette Elevator, I have enjoyed being able to witness how much the grain industry impacts not only my community, but the world.
Grain & Feed Association of Illinois
3521 Hollis Dr.