Dyersville manufacturer plans expansion with 40-plus new jobs

DYERSVILLE, Iowa — A manufacturer that opened a plant in Dyersville earlier this year already is planning to expand both its staffing and its footprint.

Zero Zone, a Minnesota-based manufacturer of commercial refrigerator systems, currently employs 26 people in Dyersville to construct the systems on two production lanes, according to Rick Steer, vice president and general manager for Zero Zone’s systems division.

However, plans are in place to add a third lane for another 12 employees in the existing 52,500-square-foot plant by the end of this year. And company officials currently are constructing a nearly identical, adjoined building with space for three more lanes. In total, the expansion is expected to create 40 to 48 new jobs.

“That’s pretty much going to be warehouse and production, just like you see here, building the same kind of equipment,” Steer said at an open house Wednesday. “The business is there. Our biggest constraint has been building and labor. But we’ve gotten labor here.”

Mike Decker, co-owner of both buildings, said the new one should be complete by the end of the year in time for Zero Zone to start leasing it on Jan. 1. Steer said Zero Zone plans to begin staffing the second building slowly next year.

Zero Zone’s partnership with Decker and his partner A.J. Speigel has been seamless so far.

“We put this up, A.J. Speigel and myself, as a spec building,” Decker said of the original building. “It just happened to be the perfect fit for them. So we decided to put the other side on as another spec building. But once construction started, they expressed their intent to take over that as well.”

Steer said taking the new building is essential to the plant’s development, just as the current building was essential to Zero Zone coming to Dyersville in the first place.

“The key to making this work — which I’ve told other communities — is they had a building,” he said. “Without the building, we wouldn’t have come to Dyersville.”

Steer said that since opening the Dyersville plant, Zero Zone has managed to avoid the workforce shortages impacting the country, which he expects will continue.

Steer believes part of that staffing success has been due to the training Zero Zone has given its local employees, courtesy of a custom curriculum crafted by Northeast Iowa Community College.

“It was unique for us,” said Gregg Willging, NICC’s director of economic development services. “We had not worked with a company that does refrigeration, which is a combination of welding, refrigeration and electrical. As they expand the number of employees, we’re in conversation with them about doing another cohort with them soon.”