In a significant move to drive economic development, the Davison County Commission voted on Tuesday to establish a new railroad authority, aiming to support the development surrounding the forthcoming soybean processing facility set to open in late 2025.

During their meeting at the Davison County North Offices, the commission approved the formation of the Davison County Railroad Authority. This new entity is expected to leverage low-interest funds and grants to enhance development along the railway line. The city of Mitchell will consider a similar resolution in their upcoming meeting on June 17.

Toby Morris, a senior vice president at Colliers Securities, advocated for the authority’s creation, highlighting its potential as a valuable economic development tool. The High Plains Processing facility, located 2 miles south of Mitchell along State Highway 37 and the BNSF Railway line, is the key project in focus.

Public input was limited, with Mitchell resident Steve Sibson voicing concerns about the composition and accountability of the railroad authority members. Sibson questioned the process, noting, “Citizens are basically locked out of the process. If we are not happy with what is going on, we can’t elect someone else. … We’re cut out of the process.”

As part of the approval process, the Davison County Commission appointed Chris Nebelsick and Mike Blaalid to the new authority. The structure of the board is anticipated to include two members each from the Davison County Commission and the Mitchell City Council, with a fifth at-large member yet to be determined. The bylaws, including term limits and the cycling process for at-large members, are still pending.

Commissioner Denny Kiner inquired about the county’s involvement in the new authority compared to the existing Mitchell Rapid City Railroad Authority. Commission Chairman Randy Reider clarified that the county could participate in both, likening it to a person being in multiple civic clubs.

Further discussions centered around the financial aspects of the High Plains Processing project. Questions arose regarding the involvement of BP Products North America and their investment in the facility. Nebelsick noted the additional funding package being discussed for the project’s construction, querying why a $500 million company would seek an $18 million loan.

Commissioner John Claggett deferred this query to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED), responsible for assembling the funding. As of Tuesday, the approval status from GOED was unclear due to technical issues on the state’s boards and commissions website.

High Plains Processing, a joint venture created in September 2023, has committed significant financial resources to the project. The Davison County Commission previously approved a $21 million tax-increment financing proposal for site improvements and utility enhancements, supplemented by a $6.6 million reinvestment payment program approved by the South Dakota State Board of Economic Development.