Rite-Hite to increase production in Dubuque, adding 100 employees

An industrial products manufacturer on Friday announced plans to add 100 jobs at its Dubuque factory as it expands its production capacity.

Rite-Hite Environmental Enclosures, a division of Rite-Hite, plans to add a third shift at its facility at 4343 Chavenelle Road early this year. Workers will be hired for assembly, welding, industrial sewing and CNC machining to cover the new shift and to bolster existing shifts.

The move is in response to soaring demand for products made at the Dubuque location, according to company spokesperson Andy Larsen. Those products include loading dock seals and shelters as well as industrial doors, fans, safety barriers, fabric curtain walls and fabric air-dispersion systems. Many of these products are used in distribution centers and similar commercial facilities.

“Warehouses and distribution centers are busy places around America and the world, and that’s where a lot of these products go,” Larsen said.

He also cited an increased demand for energy-efficient industrial products, such as the DuctSox fabric air dispersion systems produced at the Dubuque plant.

The workforce expansion aims to help Rite-Hite Environmental Enclosures double its current production levels by mid-year. The third shift is tentatively scheduled to start next month.

“Doubling production is obviously a pretty aggressive goal, and we’re not even saying by the end of the year — we’re aiming for mid-2022,” Larsen said. “That gives you a pretty good idea of how strong we’re seeing the demand is.”

Rite-Hite currently employs about 430 people at its Dubuque facility.

The company already “has started hiring production supervisors, team leads and plant maintenance technicians and is focusing on adding production associates in the new year,” the release states. Larsen said most of the jobs created for the third shift will be entry- or mid-level positions.

“We certainly have a very high opinion of the workforce in Dubuque and northeast Iowa,” he said. “We think these are strong, family-sustaining jobs, and we think there will be a lot of interest in them.”

Ryan Sempf, vice president of government and external affairs for Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce, expressed enthusiasm for the expansion.

“It’s great to see companies investing in Dubuque. I think it just shows that Dubuque is a place where businesses want to locate,” he said. “We have a competitive tax structure, and we have the people here ready and willing to work.”

Larsen said that Rite-Hite will not seek local or state incentives for its expansion.

Rite-Hite previously partnered with Northeast Iowa Community College to recruit new employees through an industrial sewing career pathway certificate program, which taught students the skills necessary for entry-level sewers in a manufacturing setting.

Wendy Mihm-Herold, NICC’s vice president of Business and Community Solutions, said the college currently does not have any students taking classes in that program. However, she said NICC is open to working with Rite-Hite to create a program to meet the company’s new hiring needs.

She added that workforce expansion initiatives such as Rite-Hite’s reinforce the need for programs like career and technical education classes at area high schools or the Opportunity Dubuque job training effort through Greater Dubuque Development Corp. and NICC.

“This (expansion) just gives an additional wide breadth of opportunities for the job seeker … and makes it even more important for us to keep offering these programs to make sure we’re recruiting and helping everyone work toward self-sustaining careers,” she said.