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Safe work at Fortigen plant celebrated; Westling outlines progress schedule

By GREG SCELLIN
Signal Editor

With major construction beginning to slow down a bit at the Fortigen fertilizer plant, GorhamGroup Industrial hosted a 250,000 Manhour without Accident or Incident celebration over the lunch hour on Friday, July 7, at the plant lunchroom in northeast Geneva.
The 10-month safe work period was celebrated with a catered lunch by Jill’s Sweet Shop of Geneva, giveaways and a brief talk by Harold Jackson, director of construction with GorhamGroup Industrial, and Fortigen President Josh Westling.  More than 120 workers and Fortigen executives attended the event.
“Ten months without an accident or incident is something special,” Jackson said.  “It’s not every day that a company can say that.  You’ve done a great job...I appreciate the work and the effort.”
Jackson said that major construction safety has changed a lot during the decades.  He noted that in the 1940s and 1950s, success on jobs was noted by the number of fatalities.  Then, it went to reportables.  Today, he would like to think it’s down to how many band-aids you used on a job.
“We are by no means done here, and we’re not going to take any short cuts either,” Jackson said.  “It’s still important to not take on any task that you’re not able to complete.”
Jackson narrated a power-point presentation that highlighted the first nine months on the job from the start in September of 2016 with 10 people and three machines on the job to today.  He also noted that a small earthquake in Kansas was felt on the job site in Geneva during construction.  He also said the ammonia flare being set into position was a project highlight.
“But, the biggest highlight is everyone coming home in the same condition they come to the job here every day,” Jackson said.
Westling echoed Jackson’s comments about job safety.
“We are planning on this to keep happening,” Westling said.  “No one getting hurt is what it’s about.  We look forward to continuing with this project, and hopefully, many more. The ownership group of this entity always talks about safety.  They want everyone to get to come home to their family at night.”
At the event, Fortigen Sr. Project Engineer Joe Casey said experts from six countries and 15 different states are currently at the plant lending their expertise.
“The pre-commissioning stage is now underway,” Casey said.  “These people have expertise in the seven areas that we will be commissioning.”
After the event, Westling said he’s excited that most everything is coming in on time and on budget at the plant site.
“But, even with this, people’s safety is the most important,” he noted.
Substantial completion of the $75 million ammonia-producing fertilizer plant is expected to happen at the end of August. An upcoming event scheduled to take place will be on July 25 when completed Inside Boundary Limit (ISBL) work will allow for ammonia to be produced at the plant. Testing on the main fertilizer tank, which is located in the Outside Boundary Limit (OSBL) area, will push its completion date back to some time in September.
“It should have been ready now,” Westling said.  “It could be done now in the middle of September.  The issue that happened was a result of human error.  It happened during testing.  A repair plan has been established and that is getting done.  You will see lights on throughout the evening with people working to get that project completed. In fact, it will be more robust now after completion than it would have been before.”
Westling also noted that major completion at the plant will also take a bit longer than previously expected because Fortigen officials have asked GorhamGroup Industrial workers to add some facets to the project to facilitate future expansion at the plant.
“From March to now, we have asked them to construct some additions that will allow expansion to include more products,” Westling said.  “And, they’re working really hard on this expansion and the new facets that have been added.  This could mean a huge additional investment at the plant...well over a $200 million project could result from this expansion.”
Westling said the possible Fortigen expansion could potentially add another 15 to 65 jobs at the plant.  For now, a staff of 30 is expected to begin phase one at the fertilizer plant.  He said, he feels workers, who have wanted to, have found places to live in the community.  He also said, it’s important to note the investment Fortigen is making into the community by adding to the tax base without the need for new streets, infrastructure and other amenities.
“We will almost double the city tax base with this valuation,” Westling said.
He also noted that City of Geneva officials and other local people with development interests were the major reason the new fertilizer plant is located in Geneva.
“But, today is about safe working conditions,” Westling said.  “They’ve came here from all over the world and they are working here successfully.  They all have to care about what they’re doing and it definitely shows.”