TH EXCLUSIVE: Dubuque manufacturer plans $14 million expansion

A longtime Dubuque manufacturing company plans a nearly $14 million expansion to its existing operation.

Even amid a nationwide workforce shortage, Klauer Manufacturing reports marked growth and expects rising customer demand for its products to continue, necessitating a similar boost to its manufacturing capacity.

“Our customers are growing, and the industry is consolidating,” said company President Mike Klauer, a fifth-generation owner. “We have the challenge: Are we going to grow with them or potentially risk getting left behind?”

Founded in 1870 in Dubuque, Klauer Manufacturing produces sheet metal building products, including residential soffit, fascia and steel siding along with roofing, siding and accessories for metal buildings.

The addition will include manufacturing, office and warehousing space, expanding the nearly 125,000-square-foot facility at 1185 Roosevelt St. Ext. by 73,000 square feet.

The city and state will consider proposals to provide financial incentives that would reimburse the company for its investment, contingent on the capital investments and the creation of 16 jobs. Klauer Manufacturing currently employs 151 full-time staff.

State support would come in the form of tax credits, tax exemptions and job training, valued at $2.7 million. The City of Dubuque is considering the provision of a tax increment rebate valued at $1.6 million.

Company officials intend to begin construction in April and complete the project by the close of 2022.

Klauer declined to say whether the project would move forward if the company does not receive the state and local awards.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority will consider Klauer Manufacturing’s application later this month, while the Dubuque City Council is expected to consider the city incentives during their Tuesday, Jan. 18, meeting and whether to voice support for its IEDA application.

The 16 jobs include a mix of office and plant positions within human resources, quality control, sales and plant supervision.

Additional staff would be added at a second of the company’s three Dubuque locations — a facility at East 26th and Washington streets.

“We have a lot of employees that live near the facilities,” said Mike Igo, company vice president. “This expansion is, in our view, supporting the downtown area. … We want to be good neighbors in this part of the community.”

But locating employees in a thinly stretched workforce could prove a challenge.

“We needed them yesterday,” Klauer said. “It’s always a concern. We feel very confident that we’ll get there.”

Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corp., said the company will benefit from tools offered by GDDC, which includes a talent recruitment website, a workforce solutions team and methods of engaging in “high-tech headhunting.”

“We can do regional searches of talent with certain skill sets and provide the contact information from that talent to employers like Klauer and invite them to consider new opportunities at their facility,” Dickinson said. “They are both a sought-after employer and a great corporate citizen.”

City Council Member Danny Sprank voiced his support for the project.

“I think it’s a great investment for the North End,” he said. “We always need more jobs. And I could see it as the start of a catalyst to revamping and reviving Kerper Boulevard.”

Klauer attributes the company’s long-term growth to smart planning. Company leaders already were contemplating the current expansion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

There was a brief time after the pandemic’s onset when they questioned their strategy, Klauer said, but nobody panicked.

“We didn’t lay off employees (or) cancel any supply-chain contracts,” he said. “We were really ready to go 100% when the economy came back around.”