Area businesses employ partnerships with NICC to meet workforce needs

Six businesses with tri-state-area ties are partnering with Northeast Iowa Community College to train employees to fill more than 300 new jobs.

The companies are receiving funds through the state’s 260E Iowa Industrial New Jobs Training program, which is administered by NICC to help expand and train the regional workforce.

“It just reinforces this long-term, strategic vision of being the best resource for our members,” said David Klavitter, chief marketing officer for Dupaco Community Credit Union, which is using the funds to support the creation of 31 new positions. “In order to do that, we need the best, most highly trained staff.”

NICC’s Board of Trustees recently approved the issuance of an approximately $4.7 million bond to fund employee training at eight businesses, supporting the creation of about 380 jobs. Six of those businesses have locations in the Telegraph Herald coverage area and are receiving nearly $4.3 million from the bond sale to support 325 jobs.

Those companies are:

Dupaco Community Credit Union: $691,000 supporting the addition of 31 new back-office positions at the Dubuque-headquartered credit union, according to information provided by NICC.Rockfarm Supply Chain Solutions: $119,000 supporting the addition of 13 new positions at the Dubuque-based business in areas such as accounting, data analytics, carrier procurement and sales.Edgewood (Iowa) Locker: $155,000 supporting the addition of 19 new employees associated with the Edgewood business’s plans to build a new facility.Centro Inc.: $192,000 supporting the addition of 30 new employees for the North Liberty, Iowa, manufacturer’s new facility in Cascade, Iowa.

Simmons Pet Food: More than $3 million supporting 222 new jobs associated with the company’s new Dubuque facility.

Giese Manufacturing: $96,000 supporting 10 new jobs associated with the Dubuque manufacturer’s plans to construct a new facility in Dubuque Industrial Center West.

Through the new jobs training program, NICC sells the bond and then works with companies to implement their training plans. Businesses can opt to train with NICC, work with the college’s contracted trainers or conduct their own training. Companies receive a tax diversion to pay off their share of the bond in exchange for creating the jobs.

“Right now, the nation, the state and our communities are needing a skilled workforce,” said Wendy Mihm-Herold, NICC’s vice president of business and community solutions. “In order for the businesses to continue their productivity, their efficiency … having a highly trained workforce is the No. 1 thing they need to be successful within their organization’s bottom line.”

At Dupaco, funds from the program will be used to continue expanding the credit union’s growing workforce. Dupaco currently has about 600 employees, up from about 400 four years ago, Klavitter said.

The business intends to add the 31 positions over the course of the bond agreement in support areas such as accounting, administration, analytics and information technology.

“We need to grow our workforce in Dubuque, and our goal is to grow workforce by growing the talent we have from this community,” Klavitter said.

He noted that Dupaco expects to create additional jobs beyond what is covered by the bond funding.

Rockfarm already has hired the positions associated with its funding and then some. CEO and co-founder Todd Colin said the business has added 38 employees since October and now employs nearly 100 people. He also expects Rockfarm to continue growing, though not all of those new positions will be in Dubuque.

“The activity is just immense right now,” Colin said. “People are seeing 30%, 50% increases in their orders, and that trickles to us. We’ve got to ship them.”

Luke Kerns, one of the owners of Edgewood Locker, said funds from the program will help train employees the business adds as it opens its new facility. That includes getting staffers up to speed on aspects of the job such as making sausages but also software associated with the business’s processes and safety training.

He noted that the 260E program is a tool to help train employees, and the funding is particularly valuable at a time when Edgewood Locker is spending money on a new plant.

“Frankly, I’m sure we’re going to have employees spend more time on training than we would have without this program simply because the funding is there to make that happen,” Kerns said.