Super Gin opens northwest of Mereta
MERETA — It's been 3 years in the making, but the new Lonestar Farmers Co-op cotton gin has opened. The facility is located 3.5 north of Mereta, and about five miles east of Veribest on Hwy 380.
The grand opening was attended Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 by San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter, as well as the vice-president of the San Angelo Economic Development Board, Michael Looney.
Paul Schwertner, the manager of the gins in Miles and Mereta, oversaw the construction of the new gin.
"We started this journey back in December of 2018. This gin is a product of the Mereta and Miles boards. The other 2 gins run great, it's just that they're older and this one is more modernized," Schwertner said.
Schwertner noted the other gins will continue operating "as usual" and said the idea of having a new gin was presented to the board members in May 2018.
"It passed easily with both the Miles and Mereta boards," he said. "May 1, 2019 was officially the first office day for the merged entity."
Schwertner said there are 350 producers over a wide area who bring their cotton to the gins in Miles and Mereta. The gin itself employees 35 full-time workers and 10-15 seasonal workers.
The multi-million dollar project, which started in March 2019, took 23 months to complete. One significant setback builders faced involved a windstorm.
"We had that big windstorm in May of last year. It blew down a lot of the building that was being constructed," he said.
Gunter spoke about the impact the gin will have and thanked the farmers.
"I know this gin is outside of the City of San Angelo, but I want to thank you for the work you do and the economical impact it has on our city," Gunter said.
Looney also spoke about the economical impact, saying, "We are overwhelmed by the contributions to the economy. This is an area that produces food, fuel and fiber."
During the opening ceremony, Looney took the opportunity to mention a new railport facility being constructed in San Angelo.
"We're going to build a rail port on 180 acres in San Angelo at the intersection of 2105 and Schwertner. We want to help the farmers get their corps and cotton around the country," Looney said.
Cotton Board President Greg Matschek thanked the board of directors and singled out Schwertner for special recognition for his efforts in overseeing the construction of the new gin while continuing to manage the other two gins.
"I don't know that I would have wanted to take on this project if Paul wasn't the one managing it," Matschek said.
Officials noted overall project/construction manager was Heath Wyatt.
Matschek said the gin plans to run its first loads of cotton in the next week or so. The farmers held back 90 modules of cotton from the harvest last year so the gin would have cotton to work with "to work out all of the kinks."
Addressing the crowd of more than 100 local farmers and their families, Schwertner said, "Little did the board, or I, realize the challenges that we'd face when we decided to take on this project, but, we kept that 'pioneer spirit'.
"The May 13 windstorm blew the building down so we had to rebuild it." he said, noting had it not been for the windstorm, the project likely would have been completed around September 2020.
The facility is over 52,800 square feet, standing approximately 4-stories tall. Schwertner said when they open, the gin can process 40 modules of cotton per hour. He said there is ample room for expansion, which could increase the production to over 100 modules per hour. One module of cotton weighs about 5,000 pounds.