(Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on local businesses that contribute to international trade in one aspect or another. They provide important background for an International Trade Town Hall set for 7 p.m. June 14 at the Holiday Inn Express Conference Center in Lexington. All county residents are invited to attend.)
Whether headed to the Pacific Rim, Mexico or a processor in state, Dawson County’s corn, soybeans and wheat contribute millions to the local economy. That’s why having state-of-the-art grain handling facilities is so important, notes Scott Hillius, vice president of grain for Country Partners Coop, headquartered in Gothenburg.
“The world market is very competitive. We have to move this product efficiently, provide a quality product and provide the product in a timely fashion when needed,” Hillius said.
It is also important to keep the product segregated to provide the type and quality of product buyers’ want, he said.
In recent years the grain handling facility in Gothenburg has annually moved between 10-12 million bushels of corn, 2.5-3 million bushels of soybeans and just under a million bushels of wheat.
Where does all the grain go? Hillius noted that since the early to mid-2000s the amount of corn going to make ethanol has steadily risen. “Now roughly 30 percent of all our corn goes to ethanol and local feed demand,” he said.
The remaining two-thirds goes by rail as Gothenburg has one of the western-most shuttle points on the Union Pacific line to the West Coast. 
Of the soybeans handled at their facility between two-third to three-fourths go for export as the rail line provides a freight advantage, said the vice president. “The market has usually been the Pacific Rim, primarily China and Taiwan, but last year due to varying reasons more beans went to Mexico,” said Hillius.
The remaining 25 to 30 percent of the area’s soybeans stay in state and go to processors for crushing.
Most of the wheat that comes into Gothenburg is loaded onto small unit trains or trucked to Lincoln and Omaha flour mills for domestic use.
Although it is difficult to pinpoint the dollars the international grain demand contributes to the local economy from just the Gothenburg facility, Hillius notes, “At a minimum if this facility would go away we would lose 15-20 people.”
This doesn’t even count the ripple effect that would impact support businesses and producers who would have no place to market their grain, he said.
Hillius encourages county residents, especially those from non-farm backgrounds to attend the upcoming International Trade Town Hall on June 14 in Lexington. “They will get a better grasp of what drives the local economic engine, learn about how Nebraska operates and a better understanding of how food appears on their dinner table. In addition, it’s important to learn how reciprocating trade brings in other products from other countries.