Pet food manufacturer looks to take Flexsteel Industries’ place in Dubuque

Published: Dec. 15, 2020 at 9:36 PM CST
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - The work at the massive building on 501 Seippel Road stopped when Flexsteel Industries shut down its Dubuque plant in June, leaving over 200 people unemployed.

But now, city leaders like Rick Dickinson, president, and CEO of the Greater Dubuque Development Corporation, are hopeful Simmons Pet Food can bring back jobs to fill and time clocks to punch.

“It is a major project,” Dickinson said. “They are the largest packer of pet food in North America for customs, so they do not brand a Simmons brand, but they produce products for other brands of pet food.”

Dickinson said the project is a capital investment of around $80 million over a three year period. The project will employ 271 people within that period and he said the plan is to fill the jobs with workers from the area.

“We believe they will be a preferred employer,” Dickinson said. “We hope to attract new workforce from the surrounding areas, especially on the rural counties that have been hard hit by this pandemic.”

Those jobs, he said, will be competitive as the average hourly pay by the end of that three-year period is expected to be around $24. Dickinson said they plan on upskilling unemployed workers interested in the positions through a partnership with the Northeast Iowa Community College.

The Dubuque City Council approved Simmons’ application to the Iowa Economic Development Authority for economic incentives, which include sales tax exemption. Councilmember Brad Cavanagh said they want to send a message to the state.

“It is important that the state of Iowa sees that the city of Dubuque is fully behind Simmons in their application to come here to our city and that we’re all working as partners,” Cavanagh said.

Dickinson added he believes the IDEA will look at the plan, favorably, on Friday.

“Upon that approval on Friday morning, it is full speed ahead,” Dickinson said. “The company would then proceed to acquire the Flexsteel building, acquiring the equipment, the installation of that equipment, the expansion of operations and hopefully be operational, actually producing product by mid-summer of 2021.”

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