Workers have been busy this fall at the Valent BioSciences construction site on south 13th Street in Osage and are gearing up for the next phase of the project as winter approaches.

Valent, an Illinois-based company which makes biological pesticides and plant growth regulators, is building the 130,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on 73 acres near A to Z Drying’s south plant.

The Gilbane Building Company of Chicago, Ill., is the construction management firm and general contractor for the $150 million project, which has been underway about a year, with completion expected in 2014.

“We are moving along pretty well with the central utility building and about 85 percent of the structural steel is in place,” said Gilbane construction manager Jack Acord, who added that the main manufacturing building is also taking shape with more than half the roof and half the siding completed.

“The weather has been good and it’s been a decent stretch so far this year - overall, we’re right on schedule or a little bit better,” he noted.

Acord said that at the end of January, a 500-ton crane, one of only two like it in the entire United States will be coming to the construction site in Osage to put in place the facility’s massive fermentation tanks.

“The crane is so big, it will be hauled in pieces and put together on site,” said Acord. “The fermentation tanks will be lowered from the top, and we will have to take the roof off for a bit. It will be a sight to see.”

Gilbane has a full management team on site in Osage, and with many workers coming and going, including several local subcontractors. Work will continue throughout the winter inside both the utility and manufacturing buildings.

“We have three one-million BTU heaters coming, so that’ll keep everything warm until spring,” said Acord.

Dozens of workers from the Gilbane organization in Chicago are expected to arrive on the site in the coming months, as construction continues. All total, 250 to 350 workers will come and go over the next year and a half, as the various stages of the project proceed.

A majority of construction are taking place in two 10-hour shifts each day. With supplies materials and equipment coming in, Acord added that there will be a lot of daily truck and heavy equipment traffic.

Primary construction traffic will be routed to enter and exit from the Orchard road north to Highway 218.

Gilbane has leased warehouse space from A to Z Drying to store materials and equipment for construction, as well as for fabrication of components of the new facility.

The temporary location of the plant’s new manager, Mike Daily of Manly, is also in A to Z Drying’s new warehouse.

Equipment setting and electrical has been underway for the past two months, with work on instrumentation, controls and landscaping planned for November.

According to officials, the new Valent BioSciences plant in Osage will be the first ever full-scale manufacturing facility designed and constructed specifically for production of biorational products, and will also utilize corn and soybeans in the process.

Biorationals are products derived from natural or biological origins that are highly specific in their activity and have low impact on workers and the environment.

The biorational industry has achieved steady growth in agriculture as awareness about needs for sustainable solutions in food production and distribution have increased.

While Valent will produce the pesticides and biorationals in bulk, A to Z Drying, which has been working with Valent since the 1970s, will finish the product, as well as package it and ship it.

When completed, the Valent Osage facility will hire upwards of 90 people on a full-time basis. Of the 89 permanent jobs announced, 12 will be engineering positions, 18 quality control, 41 production, 6 administrative and 12 maintenance.

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