A soy processing plant in northeast Oklahoma is celebrating 40 years of delivering cost-effective protein to a hungry world.
DuPont currently owns the former Solae LLC plant in Pryor, a plant that Ralston Purina first opened in 1976. Now called the DuPont Nutrition and Health, Pryor Site, the plant continues a lengthy tradition of making soy isolate protein. The facility annually produces more than 45 metric tons of the protein, a food ingredient commonly found in protein bars, protein shakes and as a supplement in meats.
After four decades, the state of Oklahoma and MidAmerica Industrial Park, in which the plant operates, still prove successful locations for this soy processing business, management says.
“We are well-established here in Pryor,” says Jeff Serpan, plant manager. “With energy and other natural resources, it’s a cost- effective place for us to maintain the operation. The infrastructure and resources are good. And the people are excellent.”
The small-town facility today employs around 200 people, who produce soy protein for a global market. About 30 percent of the plant’s soy protein is exported internationally, Serpan says. The remaining 70 percent enters the domestic food market.
The plant also manufactures coproducts of fiber, a food ingredient, and molasses, which local cattle farmers use in feed.
Part of the Community
Even with its international reach and Fortune 500 status, DuPont commits to its local communities. In the Pryor area, the global company donates each year to efforts that its employees put their hearts into. In 2016, DuPont and its Pryor employees helped local food pantries that provide food, as well as nutrition education. Additionally, DuPont purchased modern equipment for the local fire department; through service hours and funds, DuPont and local plant engineers continue to support a robotics team at Pryor’s middle school.
Meanwhile, the surrounding economy exponentially benefits from the plant’s stable employment.
“With 200 people employed, this contributes an estimated $10 million to the community,” Serpan says, “and it is very local.”
Employees generally live within a 45-minute drive of the plant, and many also own small farms or herds of cattle.
Close to 100 contractors work on the site for maintenance and to expand the plant’s capacities, says Dave Steddum, operations manager at the plant.
DuPont continues to update capacities in order to remain competitive in the global market. The installation of a modern dryer at the Pryor plant will produce more fiber. The plant is set to start increasing its soybean storage capacity at the end of 2016, with completion expected in early 2017, Serpan says.
Rail access proves vital to the commodity’s transportation, while increased storage helps attain plant production goals.
The site also has invested in environmental stewardship projects over the years, such as new basin covers on its wastewater treatment plant. In part, this addition reduces odor that the protein emits.
“We feel we have a strong responsibility for the safety of our employees and being environmentally responsible to the community we are in,” Steddum says.