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City's Hormel bid: piece-ful plan

Package will include research and development credits, a jobs training program with NICC and possible state incentives.

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Posted: Saturday, November 2, 2013 12:00 am

Research and development credits and a jobs training program with Northeast Iowa Community College highlight a proposed incentives package that Dubuque officials hope lures a major business expansion to the city.

Hormel Foods is considering Dubuque for a $31 million expansion that would create two new production lines at the Progressive Processing plant in the Industrial Center West, 1205 Chavenelle Court. Nearly 100 jobs would be created by the expansion.

Competition for the project is global, according to economic development officials. To help swing the odds in Dubuque's favor, the City Council will consider asking the state to contribute to an incentives package worth up to $4.2 million.

"(Hormel) is extremely important to the community," said Maurice Jones, Dubuque's economic development director. "Going forward, I think it's really important that we try to help them expand here as opposed to (somewhere) else. I think we have a lot to offer."

Even if the financial incentives are approved by the state, the project is not a sure thing. But local officials expressed confidence in Dubuque's chances.

"Of course, we're hopeful," said Mark Zelle, Progressive Processing plant manager. "We think we have as good a shot as anybody."

The city will offer $1.3 million in tax-increment-financing benefits over five years, which would begin in fiscal year 2022, as a "local match." If the application is approved by the state, investment tax credits and sales tax exemptions would contribute to that benefit total.

The application also requests the use of some more unique programs offered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Progressive Processing already is considered an innovator among industry peers, according to Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corp. Research activities credits would reward further innovation.

"This is a state-of-the-art plant for Hormel, and already there's some very innovative proprietary equipment in this facility," he said. "It's unique in the industry."

If approved, Hormel would receive a 3 percent supplemental credit for up to five years, for a total of about $114,000.

Dickinson said Progressive Processing personnel already are capable of making the facility's equipment "sing."

"They have the human talent there, the management, the wherewithal to get it done," he said. "It's testimony to the quality of people there on the floor and in the office."

The 260E Job Training Funds could extend a partnership with NICC that has existed since the plant first came to Dubuque in 2010. The program would be worth up to $450,173 for Hormel.

Hormel can use the program in a variety of ways.

"We provide training however they want it," said Wendy Mihm-Herold, NICC's vice president of business and community solutions. "They can do it as a contracted training, or they can bring in an outside source that we assist them in finding."

NICC also could create job training programs for new employees or assist with out-of-state educational opportunities.

Included in the city's application to the IEDA are some details about the jobs that would be created by the expansion.

The majority of the new positions would be production laborers, with wages starting at $13.58 per hour. The expansion also calls for more than a dozen mechanics/electricians with wages starting at $21.41 per hour, and seven production supervisors at $23.25 per hour, among other positions.

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