Des Moines, Iowa-based ingredient manufacturer Kemin Industries Inc. broke ground last month on a $40 million production plant set to double its footprint in a small Lawrence County town.
Officials say construction is set to start in February for the 38,000-square-foot facility in Verona. It will be next door to the company’s plant at 519 N. Third St., which it acquired for undisclosed terms in 2011 from Springfield-based American Dehydrated Foods Inc., according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
“Southwest Missouri has served as an excellent place for Kemin’s production capabilities and will continue to be a great community to expand our manufacturing opportunities,” Kemin Industries President and CEO Chris Nelson said in a news release. “We believe that Verona and the surrounding areas provide a talented and dedicated workforce ideal to grow our global footprint and transform the quality of life.”
Kemin officials are targeting a March 2023 opening for the new Verona plant. The project’s general contractor is Kansas City-based J.E. Dunn Construction Co. and architect is St. Louis-based Barry-Wehmiller Design Group Inc.
The new plant is slated to employ more than 30 full-time workers upon completion. That will add to the 69 current workers in Verona, said Kemin spokesperson Courtney Schwartz.
“The new facility in Verona is being built to specifically manufacture functional proteins for the food technologies division of Kemin,” she said via email, noting the town’s existing plant, which manufactures pet food ingredients, will remain in operation.
“The two facilities are not connected but will be on the same campus,” she said.
Kemin, which is a privately held, family-owned company with over 3,300 employees in 90 countries, has more than 15 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and overseas, including Brazil, China and India, according to its website. Schwartz declined to disclose annual revenue for the 60-year-old company.
While Kemin has hired more than 500 new employees this year, Schwartz said the company isn’t fully staffed. For example, she said a handful of job openings exist at the Verona plant.
“Companywide, Kemin is facing the same hiring challenges that many organizations are currently experiencing due to job market impacts from COVID-19 and the ‘Great Resignation’ seen across the U.S.,” she said, referring to the large number of Americans who quit their jobs this year – over 24 million between April and September, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The company earlier this year purchased Gloucester, Massachusetts-based Proteus Industries Inc. to increase its protein manufacturing offerings. The new Verona plant will manufacture its Proteus portfolio of moisture-retaining protein ingredients to enhance meat and poultry products. Terms of the deal were undisclosed.
“With its technologically advanced, sustainable and clean-label attributes, our Proteus line is in high demand with food processors that provide meat, poultry and protein-based products to consumers,” Nelson said in the release.
Staying in town
Verona Mayor Joseph Heck said Kemin’s investment and the additional jobs the new plant will bring is substantial for the town located 50 miles southwest of Springfield. Its population is roughly 600, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data.
“It’s great that they chose to build their plant here because it could have been built anywhere,” Heck said. “The company came and talked to me, and they felt very confident that this was the place to build it.”
Heck said Kemin’s conversations with the city about a new facility began over two years ago.
Schwartz said the company’s decision to further invest in Verona was largely tied to the benefits of having an existing business and knowledgeable staff on site for the past decade.
“Building further on the positive business experience and community relations that have been developed over time, Kemin is excited to expand within this community,” she said.
While the company didn’t seek any incentives for the project, Heck said Kemin officials did make rezoning requests. He said the city’s board of aldermen voted earlier this year to approve the zoning changes, which allows Kemin access to city water and sewer. It involved rezoning roughly 12 acres to heavy industrial inside city limits. One 8.64-acre parcel of land was previously agricultural, while the other 3-acre parcel was residential, he said.
“I’m glad I could be here when they did it,” Heck said of Kemin’s expansion in Verona. “That’s a great accomplishment for the citizens and our local government. This is a big deal.”
Verona isn’t the lone Ozarks area plant for Kemin, as Schwartz said the company also employs 14 at its production facility in Sarcoxie, which opened in 2016.
Kemin provides more than 500 specialty ingredients for human and animal health and nutrition, pet food, aquaculture, nutraceutical, food technologies, crop technologies, textile, biofuel and animal vaccine industries.
The congregation at Crossway Baptist Church is building a children’s wing at the west end of the church, and beginning in 2024, it will be home to a Christian academy.