Eastern Iowa meal producer staying open, increasing hiring after seeing higher demand

MARENGO, Iowa (KCRG) - After widespread closures of many types of business, many people are asking why some area manufacturing businesses are choosing to stay open during the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus.

Staff assembles sandwiches and meals at Pride of Iowa in Marengo on Friday, March 20, 2020. (Aaron Scheinblum/KCRG)

These businesses said it is necessary and important for the economy that they keep their doors open. For Pride of Iowa in Marengo, ownership said they are not only taking measures to ensure safety but because similar businesses have closed, it is leading them to produce more and hire more people.

Pride of Iowa is a food manufacturer. Typically they are responsible for producing 60,000 meals per week, and those meals are sent to locations across the country. With the threat of the novel coronavirus, however, they are speeding up their production.

"What we're getting prepared to do in the next couple weeks is 200,000 sandwiches a week, and 400,000 meals," Zack Woods, the company's general manager, said.

Kate Moreland, the interim president for Iowa City Area Development Group, said for some businesses like Pride of Iowa, staying open is pivotal for the economy.

"Keeping operations going for many of those is critical to our communities," Moreland said. "Many of them are just trying to be creative in the solutions they're coming up with right now, and it changes hour-to-hour and day-to-day, frankly."

Woods said he is looking for more employees as they prepare to go from their normal one-shift per day to working around the clock.

"We're going to go through about a truckload of bread a day," Woods said. "It's just, the volume is huge but I think we're doing the right things."

For Pride of Iowa, those changes will stay consistent for the foreseeable future, and its owners said they are ready for it.

"We got reports that it could be up to six months, but this is what we do," Woods said. "You got to be good at something, this is what we're good at."