Bulldozers and other equipment were busy moving dirt Monday, preparing the site for Ford County's newest project.

     Bulldozers and other equipment were busy moving dirt Monday, preparing the site for Ford County's newest project.
     A few feet away, Dodge City and Ford County officials celebrated the groundbreaking for the Western State Bank Expo Center, which is slated to open in the summer of 2012. The expo center will house the 3I Show starting in July 2012, as well as other agriculture-related events.
     County officials are determined to get the building up and running by the deadline, said Jerry King, president of the Ford County Building Commission.
     "To say that the expo building is on a fast-track construction timeline is probably an understatement," he said. "The Public Building Commission was formed with the task of completing this project. We are firmly resolved to have this ready to go for the 2012 3I Show."
     He said the arena will boast more than 170,000 square feet of indoor exhibition space and 1 million square feet of space for outdoor vendors, and the county hopes to make it the perfect venue for the 3I Show.
     County officials announced in July that they had signed a five-year contract with the Western Kansas Manufacturers Association, which sponsors the 3I Show, to bring the agricultural trade show to Ford County. The contract calls for the show to move into the expo center, which will be located between U.S. Highway 283 and Dodge City Raceway Park.
     WKMA's chief executive officer, Eddie Estes, thanked Garden City and Great Bend for their work with the 3I Show in the past.
     "We have been in those two communities for 30 years, and they did a wonderful job of hosting the 3I Show," he said. "And I don't think we should be up there and not say that and thank them for all the efforts they put forth to make this show what it is today."
     Estes added that exhibitors who have not participated in the show for several years want to return in 2012, and other vendors are interested in moving their outside exhibits into the new building.
     Several speakers said the project represented yet another collaboration between city and county officials.
      "I think this sign behind us is a tribute to how we do things here in Dodge City and in Ford County," said Rep. Brian Weber, referring to a sign that listed the organizations involved in the project. "We tend to work together, we work hard and we get things done."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Follow the progress of the expo center at www.fordcounty.net/expocenter/expocenter.html.

Reach Eric Swanson at (620) 408-9917 or email him at eric.swanson@dodgeglobe.com.