$4.2 million project would build 12,000 square foot facility.

With the design phase wrapping up, Adam Wagner says he hopes to break ground later this year on a new Vertical Malt facility on a parcel on Crookston’s southern edge.

“We want to break ground this summer if possible,” Wagner told the CHEDA Board of Directors. “We still have some homework to do.”

Wagner and his dad, Tim, have expanded about as much as they possibly can in the large rear bays of Valley Technology Park. They started in one bay with one barley roaster, then moved into the bay immediately to the north, and then they moved across the hall to fill more bay space there. For the past couple of years, they’ve been envisioning a new facility, and the younger Wagner says that vision is starting to really come into focus.

Last summer, the CHEDA Board agreed to help cover the fee of an expert in the barley-malting-for-craft-beer industry to consult with the Wagners, and the Northwest Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Crookston has also helped in the form of a feasibility and market study. Meanwhile, Wagner says he’s looking into funding opportunities through the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and is talking with Bremer Bank and a couple other lending institutions. The Wagners are also working with the USDA and Northwest Regional Development Commission in Warren on various financially related matters.

“We roughly know what (lenders) are willing to do,” Wagner explained. “There seems to be interest in the project.”

The Wagners will be seeking an outside investment in the amount of $1.2 million, and started as soon as later this month, they will host a series of presentation-style events at VTP to stir up interest among potential investors. There will be samples of Vertical Malt’s products in various craft brews throughout the region at the events.

The total project price tag at this juncture is approximately $4.2 million for a 12,000 square foot facility that would be designed so that further expansion would be relatively easy, Wagner noted. As of groundbreaking, he figures two to three people would be added to the staff. It should take 8 to 10 months to build, with profitability anticipated in two years. “It’s a lean and mean design in order to maximize our dollars,” Wagner explained. “We’re looking to increase the demand for Red River Valley barley.”

Even with the new facility, Wagner says Vertical Malt will still be sort of a boutique malter of barley, with a focus on quality over quantity. They’re anticipating a 25-ton malting system, which Wagner said will still be “way smaller” than other malting ventures that are considered small and mid-sized.

“We want to maintain some flexibility,” Wagner said. “At that size, we think that will let us do some pretty cool stuff.”