BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The golden shovels were out and hardhats on as city, county, and Scotts Miracle-Gro officials broke ground Monday on an expansion project that could bring more than 40 new jobs to Fort Madison.
The expansion facility is a $3.6 million project that will expand the company’s Fort Madison footprint by 4,400 square feet and bring in an additional packaging line.
Dale Heidbreder, the technical manager for the facility, said the project helps secure the company’s position in Fort Madison for the future.
“What’s happening is we’re putting an addition on our formulation building,” Heidbreder said. “It’s two levels, and what will go in that will be three new product storage tanks and four formulating tanks. In addition, we’ll install one new packaging line and upgrade an existing packaging line.”
State and local officials put together an incentive package to help the project become a reality. On May 19, the Iowa Economic Development Authority, awarded Scotts $91,612 in direct financial assistance and tax benefits from the state’s High Quality Jobs program to help with the company’s capital investment. The package required the City of Fort Madison to match the $91,612 so City Manager David Varley recommended a three-year tax abatement to meet its obligation in the package. The Fort Madison City Council approved that abatement in June.
Heidbreder said the company would have moved ahead with project without the incentives, but he said the incentives make things easier and show the state’s and city’s commitment to the company.
“We would have done it without the incentives, but it sure helps,” he said. “We’re going to bring in 40 plus jobs.. and good paying jobs.”
In addition to the 40 plus full-time added jobs, Leslie Malinski, the plant’s Director of Liquid Operations, said up to 50 additional seasonal employees may be added to the current staff of 130 full-time associates and 150 seasonal employees.
Fort Madison Partners Executive Director Tim Gobble said the expansion project speaks to the commitment of the city, the county, and the state to help existing businesses continue to grow, as well as the commitment of Scotts to the area.
Fort Madison City Councilman Chris Greenwald, who represented the city at the ceremony, said Scotts has been a strong corporate citizen.
“You always show up and you are very community-minded,” Greenwald told Malinski.
Greenwald said so many times leaders try to take credit for these types of projects.
“So many times leaders say, ‘Look what I did.’ But this isn’t about us. It’s about creating an environment that’s conducive to this kind of growth,” he said. “Those folks, the workers – they’re the real deal. It’s a reflection on them… adding to that solid workforce. It’s not always about going after the new business, you have to take care of the existing business and that’s equally, if not more, important because they’re already here.”
Malinski said the Fort Madison facility produces 70% of the liquid products for Scotts Miracle Gro.
“Next year with the expanded production capacity, we will produce more than 95% of the company’s Miracle-Gro®, Ortho®, and Roundup® consumer products,” she said.
She also said some of the new positions are already posted on the Scotts corporate website at https://scottsmiraclegro.com.
“We’re going to be ready by the end of October,” she said.
Seither and Cherry won the bid on the project and Paul Schulte, who was on hand for the groundbreaking, said some work has already been done.