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Goodwill of the Heartland preparing to open vegetable oil processing plant in Coralville

Published: Jun. 22, 2020 at 8:33 PM CDT
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CORALVILLE, Iowa (KCRG) - Goodwill of the Heartland is expanding from its traditional retail operation to the manufacturing business in Johnson County. And leaders say its efforts will not only help create jobs locally, but will expand beyond state lines.

While the plant is planning to hire about 40 employees once it is fully operational, some staff like Jon Olson have already been added to the roster.

Olson knows manufacturing well. He has been learning and explaining the business to others for 23 years. Now with his role as the plant manager, he is shedding light on a new assignment to teach.

“I want to help people that don’t normally get an opportunity to learn a job like this, to learn it and to use their skills elsewhere, if they feel they want to,” Olson said.

Olson will lead the day-to-day efforts at the Coralville plant, located off Highway 6 in one of the old Hawkeye Foodservice Distribution buildings, and it marks the newest asset for Goodwill in eastern Iowa.

“It’s soybean oil, which Iowa’s a top soybean producing state,” said Jessica Schamberger, the Vice President of Operations for Goodwill of the Heartland. “We knew we could create great jobs for people with disabilities, and then we’d have the chance to impact people around the world because the oil is packaged for humanitarian food aid.”

The plant is still in the process of interviewing candidates for jobs, and Olson said while much of the job is automated with robotics, it is up to him to teach staff how everything works and how to troubleshoot any potential issues.

“If we can find those candidates, we just have to teach them, develop them and help them become good equipment operators,” Olson said.

Schamberger said it is their goal to serve as a training ground to allow people to take those highly sought after skills to other potential manufacturing jobs.

“These are great paying jobs and that is part of our goal,” Schamberger said. “We helped place 701 people into employment last year, and if we can scale people up with the work traits that they need to be successful in manufacturing then that has big mission impact for us.”

The skills are valuable but so is the oil itself; through the U.S. Agency for International Development, that oil will go to food insecure areas worldwide, providing a takeaway for those outside the plant, and working at it.

“For me, I’d want whoever works here to come away with a sense of accomplishment that they learned something and that they can take those skills and use them anywhere,” Olson said.

Copyright 2020 KCRG. All rights reserved.

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