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Tuffy's expansion 20 percent finished as October nears

After a year of engineering and five months of construction, the $35 million expansion to Tuffy's Pet Foods is about 20 percent finished, according to Tuffy's Facility Manager Tim Lachowitzer.

The downtown Perham project, which has re-routed a lot of traffic in recent months, is expected to be completed by next spring with a start-up date for production of June 1.

Dry ingredients storage tanks are presently being added to a tower that will eventually rise 175 feet above the street level.

"We want to get the tower up and the outside sheeting put on so we can work on it in the wintertime," Lachowitzer said.

The 33 tanks Tuffys is putting in will each hold about 75 to 80 tons of ingredients.

The whole idea of the expansion is to stay competitive in the pet food market.

"There are a couple of reasons," Lachowitzer said. "One is to expand the output. Some of our customers want different ingredients that we currently aren't using. We'll make more of it and have additional ingredients."

It has been noted that Tuffy's present capacity is around 160,000 tons of product. The expansion is expected to bring that production up to 200,000 tons.

Tuffy's employs around 280 people at this time. The number to be added by the 21,000 square foot building expansion will be small according to Lachowitzer because of more automation.

"We'll be able to put out more with the same amount of employees," Lachowitzer said.

The entire Tuffy's Pet Food complex covers roughly one-half million square feet.

D1R Construction of Joplin, Mo. is building the tower. D1R has around 25 men on the job.

"That is what they do, pet food construction, that is the majority of their work," Lachowitzer said.

Lachowitzer does not see D1R adding more men to the job site.

"That is about where they are going to be because in order to do this thing you've got to do one thing at a time."

Lachowitzer said the project is a little behind schedule, but they are hoping to make it up.

"Some things did not go as fast as we thought they would," Lachowitzer said. "The concrete did not happen as fast as we thought it would."

When Jon Ebeling, the general manager of Tuffy, laid out reasons for the expansion last April the numbers that were crunched included 2,300 yards of concrete, or about 250 truckloads.

A massive amount of steel, 1.6 million pounds, is also being used. The sidewalls, which will enclose the tanks, will weigh 54,000 pounds per section. The entire logistical effort was expected to 1,000 semi loads of material.