Nestle Purina poised to grow again

Project to add 50 new jobs; state awards tax benefits

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
The Nestle Purina PetCare plant at 2400 Fifth Ave. S. is about to undergo a $200 million expansion that will create 50 new jobs.

The Nestle Purina PetCare plant, which has long been a mainstay of the Fort Dodge economy, is on the verge of another growth spurt.

And it is going to be a big growth spurt.

“This expansion is going to be a game changer,” said Astra Ferris, the chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.

To illustrate just what a game changer the expansion will be, she offered these statistics:

∫ $200 million worth of capital investment

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
The Nestle Purina PetCare plant at 2400 Fifth Ave. S. is about to undergo a $200 million expansion that will create 50 new jobs.

∫ 50 net new jobs with starting wages ranging from $27 to $30 an hour

“We’re very excited to see Nestle continue to make investments, adding jobs and value to their facility here in Fort Dodge,” Mayor Matt Bemrich said.

The footprint of the plant at 2400 Fifth Ave. S. will be changed. And perhaps most noticeable to those traveling on busy Fifth Avenue South will be a new turn lane by the plant.

“Our journey with this project began back in October 2023 and after persistent efforts and unwavering collaboration, we’ve successfully crossed the finish line,” Ferris said Friday.

That finish line was crossed Friday when the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board moved to support the expansion by awarding Nestle Purina PetCare tax benefits through the High Quality Jobs program.

That action came after Fort Dodge, Webster County and Iowa Central Community College moved to support the expansion.

The City Council committed $1.6 million to be paid over 10 years. That money will come from tax increment financing, which occurs when increased property tax revenue from a designated area is set aside to be reinvested in that area.

The Webster County Board of Supervisors agreed to give the city $400,000 to be used as matching funds for a state grant local leaders hope to get to pay for building the turning lane on Fifth Avenue South.

Iowa Central Community College has agreed to provide job training to Nestle Purina workers in conjunction with the expansion.

“Iowa Central’s economic development team led by Shelly Blunk, in coordination with college President Dr. Jesse Ulrich and the Growth Alliance, were happy to provide a job training proposal to support this wonderful expansion,” said Jim Kersten, the college’s vice president of government affairs and external relations. “Details are to be worked out, but the assistance could total financial support of $500,000 via the useful 260E New Jobs Training Program.”

The company will construct an 80,000 square foot expansion to install a new product line, according to the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

The company has not made any public statements about the project.

The plant produces canned cat food

A $200 million expansion is a remarkable achievement for a plant that in 1995, seemed destined to close..

That year, the Federal Trade Commission issued a ruling that would have effectively shut down the plant, then owned by Carnation. Carnation wanted to buy Alpo. The Trade Commission issued an order directing Carnation to unload a portion of its wet cat food production before it would approve the sale. The only practical way for the company to do so would be to sell the Fort Dodge plant, which would basically doom it.

State and local officials and average citizens pushed back.The letters, petitions and appearances before the commission paid off, prompting it to reverse its ruling. In fact, the Fort Dodge case is the only one in which the commission has ever reversed itself.

“I think that has always stuck with Nestle,” Bemrich said. “That showed that the community sees Nestle not just as a business, but as a partner, as a community member in themselves.”


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