Four years ago, the Iowa Department of Economic Development awarded a company in northwest Iowa a forgivable loan worth nearly three-million dollars. The deal with Wells’ Dairy was designed to keep the company’s corporate headquarters located in LeMars.
IDED spokesperson Stephanie Bjornson says Wells’ Dairy pledged to create or retain hundreds of jobs. "We asked them to create 129 jobs while retaining 346," Bjornson said. The deadline to create those jobs is coming up next month, on June 11. "It appears as though, at this point, that they haven’t created any net new jobs," Bjornson said.
A Wells’ Dairy spokesperson has declined to comment on the matter until after June 11. Bjornson says what happens next depends on an IDED meeting with the owners of Wells’ Dairy. "We’ll send somebody up to Wells’ Dairy in the next couple of weeks to measure the situation. One to two months after that, department officials will make a more clear determination…to decide what sort of next steps need to be taken," Bjornson said.
In past similar circumstances, the state has asked companies to pay back a portion of the loan. Bjornson says it’s too soon to tell if that will be the case with Wells’ Dairy.
In the past year, Wells’ Dairy sold it’s milk plant in Le Mars and a yogurt plant in Omaha to focus more on the business of making ice cream. The company’s contract with the state requires Wells’ Dairy, by June 11, to have 475 employees making an average wage of $28.87. A company spokesperson said in February that Wells’ Dairy had around 400 workers.