A.Y. McDonald breaks ground on ‘historic’ foundry project in Dickeyville

DICKEYVILLE, Wis. — Standing in the middle of an old corn field in Dickeyville on Saturday morning, A.Y. McDonald Mfg. Co. new foundry team director Andy Shea encouraged the crowd of around 200 people to use their imaginations.

While not much to look at yet, the 100-acre parcel soon will be home to a 360,000-square-foot brass foundry that at initial capacity will employ about 150 workers.

“We’re currently standing in what’s going to be the south parking lot of our building, and in front of us will be our co-worker entrance,” Shea said. “We’re going to have an entrance so grand that people will want to come in to work even on their day off.”

Shea was one of several featured speakers at a groundbreaking ceremony held Saturday for the new foundry. The event drew hundreds of people, many of whom were company employees or representatives from area communities.

A.Y. McDonald is based in Dubuque and manufactures water works brass, plumbing valves, pumps and natural gas products. The Dickeyville foundry will be the fourth foundry built in the company’s 167-year history and its first in Wisconsin.

The new foundry is expected to be fully operational by summer 2026, at which point the Dubuque foundry on Chavenelle Road will be decommissioned and workers there will be transferred to the Dickeyville location on Old Highway Road.

The company headquarters will remain at the current Dubuque site, as will the machinery and assembly operations.

“Today truly is a historic day,” CEO Rob McDonald said at the groundbreaking. “It is the most impactful day in our 167-year history, and I’m truly excited.”

While he declined to comment on the exact cost, McDonald later said the project will be a “nine-figure” endeavor. Online property records value the 102-acre parcel at about $2 million at the time of its sale to A.Y. McDonald.

The company announced its plans to build the foundry in Dickeyville in April, but conversations about the new building have been ongoing for over a year.

McDonald said the company looked at three potential sites but eventually chose the Dickeyville location because of its sheer size and the cooperation of local governments and economic development partners.

Once completed, the foundry will sit on about 40 of the plot’s 100 acres.

“If we had this kind of space in Dubuque, we would have just built this on our property there, but we didn’t. Here, we’re allowing for a couple generations of future growth,” McDonald said.

Reached after the event, Dickeyville Mayor Matt Gantenbein said village leaders first were approached about the project in October 2022 and the village board later voted to annex the land into village limits.

He said collaboration with A.Y. McDonald since has been “awesome,” adding that he expects the development to have a major impact on the village and surrounding communities for years to come.

“This is about the greatest thing that you could ask for — a family business choosing Dickeyville and bringing a lot of jobs to the area,” Gantenbein said. “It’s going to be amazing for us.”

Once completed, the foundry will be about four times larger than the current foundry in Dubuque, Shea said, which will remain open until the Dickeyville location is complete. All in all, it will be big enough to fit six football fields.

The new foundry also will include a series of equipment, safety and efficiency upgrades meant to allow more work to be done at the facility with the same number of employees.

Initial estimates state the Dickeyville site will be around 90% more productive than the Dubuque location with the same number of workers.

“Anyone who works in a foundry knows it can be dangerous, hot and dirty,” said A.Y. McDonald Manufacturing President Chad Huntington. “Our job and our responsibility with this build is to engineer improvements so it’s safer, cleaner, cooler and quieter.”

As company leadership moved the first shovels of dirt Saturday morning, cheers erupted from the crowd. A banner was laid out nearby for visitors to sign.

Grant County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Ron Brisbois ahead of the event called the foundry the county’s “single largest project” to come to fruition during his tenure.

He said the county constantly is looking for ways to diversify its business offerings and that a new foundry will further this goal and bring more diverse job opportunities to area residents.

He also said the project has attracted other developers’ attention, adding that there already has been an uptick in industrial, commercial and residential interest in and around the area near the foundry.

“We firmly believe that we are going to see additional growth among other business and industry sectors because of this,” Brisbois said. “People have noticed this project, and they’re asking themselves, ‘Why Grant County? Why did A.Y. McDonald go there?’, and we’re excited to answer that question.”