Dubuque council OKs pair of measures tied to manufacturer’s $80 million proposal

City Council members on Friday night approved a pair of measures tied to a proposed $80 million project that would bring more than 270 jobs to Dubuque.

Arkansas-based Simmons Pet Food aims to purchase and retrofit the Flexsteel Industries property at 501 Seippel Road to serve as a production facility for wet pet food.

During Friday’s virtual meeting, Simmons Pet Food President Scott Salmon discussed the process that led the company to Dubuque.

He said positive interactions with city leaders and economic development officials played a big part in the final choice.

“When you’re picking a location for a business like this, you are looking at the quality of the workforce, you are looking at the geographic location, you are certainly looking at the structure, but more importantly, you are looking for a partnership,” he said.

The proposal is contingent on the receipt of local and state incentives, both of which moved one step closer to fruition during Friday’s special meeting.

City Manager Mike Van Milligen noted that the company conducted a nationwide search before it narrowed its options down to three finalists, then picked Dubuque.

Council members unanimously agreed to set a Dec. 17 public hearing on a proposed development agreement between the city and Simmons Pet Food.

The agreement includes tax- increment-financing rebates estimated at about $3 million. The city also would provide a grant of more than $500,000, covering about half of the $1 million purchase price of 8.4 usable acres of land adjacent to the Flexsteel site that the company eventually would use for an expansion.

Council members also approved an application to the Iowa Economic Development Authority, which will consider incentives for the project later this month.

The company is requesting an $800,000 forgivable loan, a $3 million investment tax credit and a $300,000 sales, service and use tax refund from the state. The company also seeks $2.15 million in state job training funds.

In return for this package of incentives, the company plans to invest around $80 million in the Seippel Road facility and hire 271 full-time employees — 138 in 2021 and the remainder by the end of 2023.

Salmon described Simmons as a third-generation family enterprise that operates three companies: a poultry company, an animal nutrition business and a pet-food business, speaking specifically about the potential of the latter.

“It’s a business that we are extremely excited about,” he said. “It is a high-growth business for us, so we are expanding. We are adding jobs. We are adding locations.”

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