United Development LLC
In Brookings, South Dakota, United Development LLC has been powering the local agricultural market since 2009, specializing in ag-related general contracting, construction management, design and development, particularly in the niche of dairy development, waste management and ventilation systems. United Development is an expert in site selection, design, construction and general contracting of new facilities, as well as remodels and expansions.
Arjan Blok, founder of United Development, came to the United States in 2002 and together with a partner, built many of the dairy operations along the I-29 corridor including his own, Global Dairy. In 2009, Arjan ended his partnership, retained ownership of Global Dairy and established his own general contracting and construction management company, United Development, where he continues to design and build large-scale dairy facilities and other ag-related operations.
Blok grew up on a dairy farm in Holland. After obtaining a real estate degree there, he moved to Portugal where he operated a large-scale dairy for seven years. After a brief return to Holland, he came to the United States and began his career in dairy development.
Because Blok owns and operates his own 2,500- head dairy operation and has prior experience in dairy management, he has an advantage over competitors. Not only does this firsthand experience allow him a true understanding in layout and design for maximum labor efficiency, it also gives him the advantage of being able to test new building material, systems, designs and equipment on his own facility as it continues to expand.
Blok and his staff offer customers an advantage through this firsthand industry experience. “We stand out from competitors because I have the background knowledge and true understanding of what a producer needs from running my own dairy — we just know the needs of our client base better than the next builder. I understand the inner workings of a dairy operation and how it differs completely from say a hog barn for example,” he says.
Blok’s opportunities on his own farm include but are not limited to: various ventilation systems in both free-stall barns and calf facilities, waste management/bedding systems, including gravity-flow lagoons with sand lanes and compost bedding with separator systems; free stall designs including sand, waterbeds, air beds and deep stall compost; feed center design; and a calf facility, which is 100 percent power ventilated with automatic feeders and floor heat.
With a staff of 45 employees, United Development also provides consulting services on dairy projects outside of South Dakota, across the U.S. and into other countries.
Navigating the permitting process
United Development is able to deliver each turnkey agricultural construction solution from concept to project completion. Starting with site selection, United Development ensures that the new site has optimal road access to processing plants, and that the site is fed by suitable water quality and volume, as well as power and crop land availability.
“We also help our clients by offering them everything they need through the permitting process, which can be overwhelming if you try to go it alone,” explains Blok. “Through this process, we work closely with site engineers with many years of experience to ensure all regulations are met.”
From here the company offers site layout and design, dirt work and structural design drawings, as well as custom planning, budgeting, estimating, bidding, construction scheduling, subcontractor selection and risk management.
Blok does nearly 100 percent of the design work himself. Proper design and project phasing are particularly important in the Upper Midwest, where the weather can easily throw off a project’s schedule. “We find ways to keep building even through the winter with snow, high winds and extremely cold weather,” says Blok. “We’re known for getting projects done really quickly. In fact, Northern Sky Dairy, a 5000-head Jersey farm, was completed in just nine months, most of which was through the winter.”
Projects in United Development’s portfolio include numerous expansions and additions, new larger scale operations, such as Northern Sky and Lakeside Dairies, Victory Farms, Dakota Layers poultry facilities, large-scale feedlots, heifer facilities and fully automated calf facilities.
Blok says today the lion’s share of United Development’s business is referral based thanks to satisfied customers. “The most rewarding thing is building a relationship with a happy customer,” he says. “We want to give them more than what they’re hoping for and of course, keep our promise — that’s the most rewarding thing for me and for my guys.”
At the end of the day, better facilities mean better production and greater efficiency, which is why hundreds of producers have come to trust United Development LLC for expert turnkey agricultural facilities construction.