August 27, 2015

Lime Springs beef plant looking for workers in 2 job fairs

The Lime Springs Beef website.

The Lime Springs Beef website.

A new meat processing plant in northern Iowa’s Howard County is holding a couple of cattle calls for workers this week.

Lime Springs Beef spokesperson, Kyle Wooters, says they are hosting job fairs on Thursday in Cresco and Saturday at the plant.

“We’re looking to hire between 50 to 60 people, that’s to fill productions jobs, as well as a few in the shipping, some maintenance, and a few office support staff as well,” Wooters says.

He says they plan to hire people in waves during the next several weeks in anticipation of opening the 15,000 square foot facility. “We’re looking to open in the beginning part of October, so we’re looking to hire our first wave employees probably at the end of September so they could start in early October,” Wooters explains. He says the Limes Springs plant, which is close to the Minnesota border, is going to be different than the mass production processing plants owned by major corporations.

“We will be processing about 112 head a day — which is drastically different. So the pace of work won’t necessarily be as fast,” Wooters says. “And employees here will have a vast variety of jobs so they won’t be doing the same thing all day long. That’s what makes us pretty much different from the big guys.” Wooters says the work will be less repetitive for employees than you find in most manufacturing plants. “They might spend half the day doing one job, half the day doing another job, instead of a full eight hours of just one cut, same thing every day,” Wooters says.

Lime Springs Beef also says it’s treatment of cattle will be more humane, with shorter travel distances. Wooters says the ownership is also different for this plant. “A lot of the investors are actually local cattle producers as well, so it kind of has a local ownership group. So the community is heavily invested in this project,” Wooters says. Members of the Crestwood FFA Chapter in Cresco have also invested 20-thousand dollars in the project.

The job fair Thursday is at the Northeast Iowa Community College Center in Cresco, and the Saturday job fair is at the plant on Highway 63.


Economic development money awarded to projects in Oelwein, Ames, Sioux City

IEDA-signAn eastern Iowa city is going to add hundreds of new jobs with the help of a company in the eastern United States.

Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) spokesperson, Tina Hoffman, says a Pennsylvania company was awarded $1.75 million from the state in direct assistance and tax benefits.

“East Penn manufacturing is going to be creating 350 jobs in Oelwein, which is a very significantly sized project with $64 million in capital investment that this company is making for warehousing, buildings with auxiliary equipment, those kinds of things,” Hoffman says. She says the Oelwein facility will make products to support the company’s Transportation Starting, Lighting and Ignition battery division.

“High quality batteries and battery accessories for commercial markets, industrial markets, those kinds of things,” according to Hoffman. The jobs promised a wage of $13.55 to win the state funding. Hoffman says the proposal is to have the plant up and running by November of 2017. The Oelwein award was one of several approved Friday by the IEDA board for new or existing businesses.

The board also approved three awards from two funds that are designed to help entrepreneurs turn technology or concepts into businesses. One award was approved for a central Iowa technology company. “Priority 5, which is located in Ames, is a company that is providing technology solutions as it relates to the data that is becoming available to 911 operators or police sensors and data,” Hoffman explains. They’ve created a system that helps agencies process all the camera feeds, sensors and alarms, radar and sonar, video analytics, 911 calls that come in.

“They’ve developed a platform called the Touch Assisted Command and Control System (TACCS™), which is a software that helps represent all of those elements for dispatchers and the like. So, they were awarded a $250,000 loan from what we call the Innovation Acceleration Fund to kind of move their product forward,” Hoffman says. She says the $250,000 is a large award for this type of business, but she says it signifies how far along they are in their development. Another Ames company won a $25,000 grant.

“Inland Sea — which is planning to build state-of-the-art recirculating aquaculture system to produce salmon. And so, that company is at an earlier stage and is really trying to understand what commercial relevance its company has in the marketplace. The award for Inland Sea comes from what’s called the Proof of Commercial Relevance (POCR) Fund, which helps businesses advance after they have proven their plan works.

Sioux Natural in Sioux City is a food technology company that also received a POCR grant. “They’ve developed a patent-pending intellectual property platform for naturally derived sugar substitutes,” Hoffman explains. “So obviously we are all trying to be healthier and Sioux Natural thinks they have a product that has a lot of applications for commercial and home baking.” Their grant is for $25,000.

“This small award will help them to take it to full commercialization to see what markets are out there for them,” Hoffman says. Sioux Natural was established in 2012 and the company says their products offer significant benefits over existing artificial sweeteners in that they offer a true one-for-one replacement for sugar.


State approves financial incentives for several businesses

LeMarsThe Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) board today awarded direct financial assistance and tax benefits to a variety of companies with the promise of more jobs and expanded facilities. IEDA spokesperson Tina Hoffman, says one award went to the 125-year-old Braunger Foods company in Sioux City.

“Braunger foods is going to relocate to a larger facility. They are a food distributor, they service restaurants, schools, health care facilities, things like that,” She says the company is putting a lot of money into the new facility. “They are going to have a four-point-three million dollar capital investment for this project that will retain 18 jobs, Hoffman says. “They are receiving benefits through the Targeted Jobs Withholding Tax Credit program — which is a program especially for communities on our borders which have to compete against different tax climates in other states.”

Cambridge Technologies, which is part of the Prairie Holdings Group of companies located in Worthington, Minnesota won state assistance for a western Iowa facility the make animal health care products.

“They are going to establish a new production facility up in Sioux Center. They received benefits through the High Quality Jobs Program today, both direct financial assistance as well as tax benefits. And this project is going to create 39 jobs,” Hoffman says. The company received $67,500 tax benefits for the company’s promise of an $820,000 capital investment.

“This is a really great project that’s going to create a fair number of jobs in the biosciences arena, so exactly the kinds of jobs that we are looking for,” according to Hoffman. Nine of the jobs in Sioux Center will have a wage of $20.77 an hour.

Also in western Iowa, Wells Enterprises in Le Mars was awarded tax benefits to upgrade to its South Ice Cream Plant. “They’re going to make a 19-point-three million dollar capital investment, install a new multi-product production line, add some additional equipment. And this project will create 19 additional new jobs up in Le Mars,” Hoffman says. Eleven of the 19 new jobs will have a wage of nearly $21 an hour. won tax benefits for its eastern Iowa operation in Hiawatha. “They are one of the world’s largest website hosting companies, or owners of domains if you will. They have 600 current employees over in Hiawatha, which is mainly one of their customer care centers,” Hoffman explains. “They are going to expand that operation — a six million dollar expansion — create a 131 million new jobs.”

The privately-owned parent company of the Kum & Go convenience store chain won state tax benefits to move its headquarters. “They are now over 150 million dollars in capital investment for the relocation of their company headquarters building to a site downtown in Gateway West. And they were awarded tax benefits through the high-quality jobs program to create 90 new jobs and retain 11 jobs,” Hoffman says.

The 3M company won state incentives to expand its facility in Knoxville. “Three-M is going to be doing an expansion project that is going to have a capital investment of $25.8 million. So the board awarded them some direct financial assistance as well as tax benefits,” Hoffman says.

The company says it is planning to install trade secret manufacturing and technology at its Knoxville location to produce and convert tapes and adhesives. It says these plant and equipment investments are designed to meet global demand for new products and provide adequate manufacturing capacity for existing products.


July unemployment rate moves up half a percent

Workforce-DevelopmentThe state unemployment rate moved up slightly in July to 3.8 percent after dropping to 3.7 percent in June. Iowa Workforce Development deputy director, Ed Wallace, says the change was actually only half a percent that was rounded up in the final figure. “We continue to add jobs in virtually all sectors, but had a slight uptick over the past month,” Wallace says.

The move up in the unemployment numbers ends a trend that saw the number holding steady of decreasing. “This is the first slight uptick in almost six months. We continue to add jobs in a lot of different sectors. It’s our strong hope that we’ll continue to increase the number of working Iowans across the state,” Wallace says. The department’s report shows nonfarm employment gained 8,100 jobs in July. Wallace says even with the increase in jobs, movement among temporary workers was part of the reason for the slight change in the unemployment rate.

“Some of the firms that hire temporary workers in various industries had some of those workers transition into different positions or transition to different places. So we saw a slight job in the number of temporary workers and somewhat of a weaker showing in professional and business services,” according to Wallace. He says the transition into the school year for college students and teachers also impacted the job numbers.”Some of the students who had been in the service industry are headed back to school. However, we have seen an uptick in educators hired over the last month — primarily due to school districts hiring across the great state.”

There have been some announcements of job losses recently, most notably the closing of the Tyson plant in Denison, which leaves 400 people out of work. Wallace says those jobs may not show up in the unemployment numbers as other jobs are available to those workers. “Its our hope with the Tyson plant closing and other closings that we are able to transition many of those workers in to other positions — because there are many employers who are hiring in the regions that have layoffs,” Wallace says.

Wallace says the state still remains close to the full unemployment level, which is 3.5 percent. He says Iowa is in better shape than one year ago in July when the unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, and the Iowa rate remains below the national rate of 5.3 percent.


Denison mayor says city responding to loss of Tyson plant

TysonThe Mayor of Denison says the loss of 400 jobs with the announcement of the closing of the Tyson Foods plants was a big economic blow, but he says they had prepared for its possibility. Mayor Brad Bonner says Tyson did provide short-term severance by keeping the workers on employee status for 60 days.

“That means that for 60 days they’re being paid on a 35-hour work week, but they are not expected to report to work,” Bonner says. “Also, they are offering quite an incentive package. if employees would move from Denison to their Lexington, Nebraska plant, the are offering them a cash incentive and a month in a hotel to help them re-settle there.”

Quality Food Processors announced it is expanding its bacon and processed meat plant in Denison, on the heels of the Tyson closing announcement. Bonner says Farmland foods also needs workers.

“We have about 500 jobs open inside the county — we need people to work. And so the city has been doing everything we can to make sure people know that we want them here, we like them here, and doing everything that we can to get them to choose us to be their community,” Donner.

Bonner said the city was able to act quickly when the closing occurred because they had an economic emergency plan in place ahead of time. “We had a scare about a year ago, they were looking at closing, and at that time as a city we said just like we need to be prepared if a natural disaster happens, we need to be prepared if an economic disaster happened. Obviously, 400 jobs being eliminated in one day constitutes that,” Donner said.

Iowa Workforce Development, public mental health experts, Western Iowa Tech, Region XII and other entities that can help the employees deal with the transition were brought in right away. Bonner will host a Mayor Town Hall meeting Friday at 9 a.m. that will include representatives from Iowa Workforce Development and other employers who will offer more information to the displaced workers.

Iowa Workforce Development met with Tyson employees this past Tuesday and will be back in Denison next Tuesday, August 25th, as they partner with the Denison Chamber and Development Corporation to host a job fair from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. at the Denison Armory.

(Reporting by Chantelle Grove, KCIM, Carroll)


Denison schools preparing for possible impact from Tyson plant closing

School-BusStudents in the western Iowa town of Denison will return to classes next week at a time when many of their parents are looking for work. Last Friday, Tyson Foods shut down a plant in Denison, leaving 400 people without a job. Denison Community Schools Superintendent Mike Pardun says so far, there hasn’t been an uptick in transfers.

“You know, we’re going to feel an impact. Anytime you lose your second largest employer in your area, there will be an economic impact, both for your school and for the region. Being able to quantify what that looks like yet, is pretty hard to do,” Pardun said.

Roughly 180 of the district’s 2,100 students had at least one parent employed by Tyson Foods. While Pardun anticipates a drop in student population, he hopes it will be small since there are other employers in the area that are hiring.

“It’s relatively early, we’re not even a week in at this stage. But it’s certainly something we’re aware of and we’ll keep our eye on,” Pardun said. The Denison district could lose tens of thousands of dollars in state funding. For the 2015-16 school year, the state cost per pupil is nearly $6,500. Funding for the current year is based on last year’s enrollment. So, if there is a significant drop in numbers, that impact won’t be felt until next school year.

By Sarah Boden, Iowa Public Radio

Iowa Farm Bureau study details the impact of avian flu on egg prices and jobs in Iowa

chickensA study commissioned by the Iowa Farm Bureau shows it could take up to three years to see egg prices recover, and thousands of jobs could be lost from the impact of the avian flu outbreak.

Spencer Parkinson is the executive director of Decision Innovation Solutions of Urbandale, which conducted the study. “What we found was that about 8,400, 8,500 jobs would be impacted or lost as a result of the avian influenza outbreak. About $1.2 billion in lower output and about 425-427 million dollars in lower value added,” Parkinson says.

Some 34 million birds on 77 Iowa farms had to be destroyed after contracting the virus. Parkinson says the amount of time it takes to get the operations running again adds to the overall cost. He says they found that a lot of the laying hens would be out of service anywhere from one year to 18 months. The turkey producers have a 30 week turnaround to get back up and operating.

Parkinson says they did separate out the impact on the businesses that provide services to the poultry producers — the veterinarians, trucking companies, processors and lenders for example — that’s included in that $1.2 billion overall total . “As far as the ones that would be not part of just the farms — we’re talking about 2,500 jobs or so. And then as far as output that would be lost, it would be right around $570 million as far as what the indirect and induced impact would be from the outbreak itself,” according to Parkinson.

He says the number of jobs lost is based on the time it takes the operations to get back up and running, and their ability to keep employees from moving on. “In these areas where the outbreak has occurred, the unemployment rate is already lower than the state average — and so there’s plenty of jobs. And in some cases some of these employees that have been trained and retained over the last number of years, they are going to move on to some other work,” Parkinson explains. “So these farms are going to have to find new people.”

He says finding the new people to train and getting them to stay in the jobs once a facility is operating again will be a challenge. Another cost for the egg producers is filling the contracts they had in place when the outbreak hit. Parkinson says it is expensive to find the eggs to fill the orders. He says they are looking at using powdered eggs that go into pancake mixes and other things to fill their orders. “They are honoring their contracts and it’s becoming more difficult and of course those eggs are going to be bought at a premium. So, there’s additional implications in that route too,” Parkinson says.

Turkey producers are in a better situation compared to egg producers. “The reason for that is they are an all-in, all-out system, and it’s easier to recover from that because you are not trying to stagger the ages of your poultry,” Parkinson says. Parkinson says this outbreak had some key factors that have made it different from anything else his company has studied.

“I guess the closest would probably be the PEDV (Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus) outbreak in the hog industry about a year-and-a-half or two ago. The interesting thing about this one though, is how fast it spread,” Parkinson says. “Within a couple of months, the Iowa layer industry lost half the layers — and that is something I have never seen on that scale — an industry losing half of their birds in just two-to-three months.” He says the hog industry’s return from their outbreak should offer some hope to poultry producers.

“We saw that they were able to recover and the price of pork has come down from what it was two or three years ago. And that’s a bright spot with the price of eggs being where they are now. We can expect the price of eggs to be elevated for a period of time, but they will eventually come down,” according to Parkinson. You can see the full report on the Iowa Farm Bureau website.