Unity terminal survives fire after announcing dividends

The grain dryer has built-in safety protocols and the unit shut down when the fire occurred. The cause is being investigated

Kenneth Brown
of The Crossroads

Black smoke comes off an industrial grain dryer at North West Terminal near Unity on Oct. 11 after a small fire grew into a much larger blaze, according to the company’s CEO Jason Skinner.

North West Terminal (NWT) Ltd., along with its staff and directors, has gotten through an eventful week complete with a dividend announcement and a large fire.

The NWT board of directors issued a news release on Oct. 10 to announce dividends for its shareholders.

An industrial grain dryer caught on fire a day later. The fire from Oct. 11 did not spread from the grain dryer, according to a company official.

The release states that Class A and B shareholders will receive a dividend of $1.67 per share, and Class A shareholders will also receive a preferential dividend of $0.33 per share in addition to other dividends for a total dividend of $2 per share. A total of nearly $5.5 million will be returned to shareholders.

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Original NWT shares were issued in 1995 at a price of $3.33 per share, and additional shares were issued in 2000 at $3.67 per share and in 2007 at $5.63 per share. Information about a “Share Trading Program” is available on the company’s website.

Brad Sperle, the president for NWT, said in a statement that the company is “very pleased to be paying a dividend to the shareholder.” The company operates an inland grain terminal and bio-products manufacturing facility east of Unity. The company has ownership stake in Alliance Seed Corp. in Saskatoon and Alliance Grain Terminal Ltd. in Vancouver.

Jason Skinner, the CEO for NWT, spoke about the fire and dividends in an interview on Wednesday. He said there is a high demand for grain drying services at present and the company has been drying grain since harvest began.

The company’s grain dryer has built-in safety protocols, and the unit shut down on the Thursday morning of the fire, he explained. The CEO said workers were investigating the cause of the shut down when they discovered a fire inside the machine, so they called the fire department.

“The blaze was contained to just the dryer,” Skinner said, recognizing that firefighting crews worked to contain the fire and they were able to extinguish the fire by about 4 p.m. “It never went beyond there.”

He noted that the company’s bio-products facility was never in danger from the fire because the sites are located far apart in the event of an emergency. The company started operating and taking deliveries of grain on Monday and it is business as usual, he said. The company is looking at installing a temporary grain dryer and the dryer is on location, so it will be going in about two weeks, according to the CEO.

The dividends announced by NWT earlier last week are slightly larger than normal, but the company did not issue dividends in 2017, he said. The company prefers to issue dividends each year, but the dividends were held back in 2017 due to investments being made to the terminal’s facilities, he noted.

Skinner said the company built an additional driveway to speed up grain deliveries and added a new dust control system to improve the operation of the elevator. The board chose to put the brakes on its 2017 dividends to ensure the capital was there for its projects.

He said the bio-products plant has been operating nicely and, aside from the fire, the company is moving right along. Now that the upgrades to terminal infrastructure are complete for now, the company was able to share its profits.

“That tends to be the overall strategy when we’re looking at dividends,” Skinner said, recognizing that the company’s philosophy has always been to share its profits with shareholders because their investments have made it possible to operate. “It’s certainly nice when we can do that and get that money back out into the community.”

The bio-products plant produces ethanol, but the CEO said NWT has been shifting away from fuel markets to produce a higher grade alcohol for industrial markets. There is more value for alcohol in the industrial markets.

Skinner said the company has offered its Share Trading Program for about five years and it is a platform for shareholders to buy and sell shares. The company’s shares are not traded on the stock market, so the platform is an opportunity for the trading of shares.

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