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tracygehrts@alliantenergy.com

If Wisconsin were a country, it would rank fourth in the world in cheese production

Cheese producers throughout Wisconsin make significant contributions to the state’s economy by creating jobs and purchasing milk from Wisconsin dairy farmers. Wisconsin cheesemakers make 27% of the nation’s cheese (3.3 billion pounds annually), ranking Wisconsin as the top cheese-producing state.

With such a strong history of cheese production, it is no surprise that Alliant Energy customer Baker Cheese in St. Cloud, Wisconsin was named 2020 Dairy Plant of the Year by national trade publication Dairy Foods. Over the past 17 months, Baker Cheese has been recognized for their innovative manufacturing processes, facility expansions, and progressive work in the industry.

After 104 years in business, Baker Cheese produces what has been recognized as the best string cheese in the United States. The family-owned business competes globally and has become renowned in the industry for its role as a premier supplier of private label string cheese manufacturing services, a producer of retail products, and a company committed to supporting local dairy farmers.

Third local expansion in 14 years for German pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturer

German pharmaceutical excipients manufacturer JRS PHARMA GmbH & Co. KG announced that they will be expanding the U.S. subsidiary’s, JRS Pharma, plant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The $15.9 million project calls for an increase in production space and associated tank farm. It will add 18 employees to the current 75 staff members.

This is the company’s third expansion since locating to the community in 2006. JRS Pharma is a leader in the manufacturing of excipients, offering a complete portfolio of solutions for the global health science industry. JRS PHARMA GmbH & Co. KG and its subsidiaries have 31 production facilities over four continents.

Defense aerospace facility coming to Cedar Rapids, Iowa

United Kingdom based BAE Systems, Inc. announced that they will be investing $139 million in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to build a new 200,000 square foot classified defense aerospace facility. The 650 new employees will design and manufacture mission-critical GPS receivers that are compliant with military M-Code, anti-jamming, and anti-spoofing requirements.

Construction is planned to start this October with occupation scheduled for September 2022. The City of Cedar Rapids will incentivize the project with infrastructure improvements around the facility and a 75% property tax exemption over 20 years.

BAE Systems is a global defense, aerospace and security company employing 83,100 people worldwide and 30,500 in the United States. The company helps their customers to stay a step ahead when protecting people and national security, critical infrastructure and vital information.

Wisconsin manufacturers answer the call for PPE

Soon after President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act of 1950 in response to the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for COVID-19, Wisconsin manufacturers got to work.

Monterey Mills in Janesville pivoted from producing knitted pile fabric used in paint rollers to developing reusable, durable protective face masks. The company’s president worked day and night to redesign the factory while at home suffering from COVID-19. The company has now ramped up production to 65,000 masks daily.

Prent Corp. in Janesville manufactures plastic packaging products. The company designed a new face shield made of recycled PETG and foam that could be produced and delivered to hospitals faster than a traditional face shield. Less than 12 hours after they learned about a shortage of face masks at nearby Mercyhealth, Pent Corp had a prototype in the hands of doctors.

Face new challenges with an adaptable workforce

This crisis has shown how innovative, resilient and adaptable the workforce in Wisconsin can be. While the work ethic of the Midwestern worker is well known, our workforce’s ability to adapt, learn new skills and accept new challenges sets them apart. With a foundation of hard work, eagerness to learn and a desire to be successful, they are willing to do what it takes to learn new skills and processes to help their employers succeed. The Midwest has some of the most productive and reliable workers in the nation.

One reason Wisconsin and Iowa workers might be above the national average is the number of people who have received the National Career Readiness Certificate. Both Iowa and Wisconsin rank in the top 10 in both the total number of NCRCs earned and the number earned per capita. The ACT WorkKeys National Career Readiness Certificate is an assessment-based credential issued at four levels. The NCRC measures and certifies the essential work skills needed for success in jobs across industries and occupations. A NCRC credential verifies proficiency in:

  • Problem-solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Reading and using work-related text
  • Applying information from workplace documents to solve problems
  • Applying mathematical reasoning to work-related problems
  • Setting up and performing work-related mathematical calculations
  • Locating, synthesizing and applying information that is presented graphically
  • Comparing, summarizing and analyzing information presented in multiple related graphics

With a higher than average number of career readiness certificates, Alliant Energy is confident that future organizations and employers will be able to tap into the most qualified labor pool.

Building the energy grid of the future

We continue to transform our distribution system into a continuous two-way flow of electricity and digital information. The Integrated Grid includes projects that deliver significant system improvements and leverage new technologies and tools to satisfy emerging customer requirements.

Our grid modernization efforts will offer better power quality and more reliability as well as broader access to clean energy and energy-efficiency options. We will be able to better handle the flow of power and information from customers and the grid.

Moving underground

When we update our distribution systems, we prefer to install underground (UG) cable whenever it’s cost effective and practical. Underground systems have far fewer outages and are safer to the public.

The average minutes per year a customer will be without power is nearly 89% less with underground distribution compared to overhead.

Alliant Energy partner brings companies together to produce face shields

The COVID-19 crisis has temporarily closed the Digital Manufacturing Lab powered by Alliant Energy in Ames. Rather than remain idle, our partner Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) has used their time and expertise to help companies make a difference.

CIRAS connected two Alliant Energy customers from different parts of the state who teamed up to make tens of thousands of face shields. The Dimensional Group of Mason City makes the front part of the face shields. Angstrom Precision Molding of Ottumwa makes the halos, which is the part workers wear around their head. Both companies are in the Alliant Energy service area.

In addition to connecting the two companies, CIRAS helped to make the project cost-efficient and quick, deploying a 3D printer and digital simulations in the process.

The companies, which had never worked together, are now producing thousands of face shields each week. They sell them to the state of Iowa for $1.25 each. The market price for similar equipment usually is $8 to $10 each. The state buys the equipment to distribute to hospitals and other medical facilities.

Despite their main business being down by 80%, the companies were able to retain their employees to make the face shields. Without Alliant Energy’s support of technology in manufacturing, this pivot might not have been possible. Alliant Energy is the largest private donor to CIRAS.

Alliant Energy has purchased 1,000 of these face shields and donated them to rural hospitals and long-term care facilities across the state of Iowa.

Focus on Energy recognizes Wisconsin’s top energy efficiency achievers

Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide energy efficiency and renewable resources program, recently honored 13 winners for efforts to reduce energy waste. Focus on Energy offers energy expertise and financial incentives to help Wisconsin homeowners, businesses and other groups invest in energy-efficient equipment and practices.

By getting in on energy efficiency, this year’s award winners not only see reduced energy consumption and cost savings – they also support technology innovation, job creation, lowered environmental impacts, increased competitiveness and reduced dependence on nonrenewable resources.

Two companies served by Alliant Energy received awards.

Mercury Marine changes production and upgrades buildings

Mercury Marine is driven by environmentally conscious production and sustainable energy management. The company has made extensive production changes, building envelope upgrades, indoor and outdoor lighting conversions and compressed-air improvements. The company worked with Alliant Energy on energy efficiency projects from 2018 to present. Mercury Marine saves 2,733,386 kilowatt hours of electricity and 169,000 therms of natural gas annually, enough to power 478 homes for a year. The company also saves more than a quarter of a million dollars annually from energy reduction.

When expanding facilities at its headquarters in Fond du Lac, the company has used energy-efficient climate control and water-heating equipment, and it has used windows and natural light elements in the designs to lower energy costs.

Coextruded Plastic Technologies, Inc. finds savings with Advanced Rooftop Controls

Coextruded Plastic Technologies (CPT) makes Go-Green trays, which have a reduced carbon footprint compared to conventional thermoforming.

Directed to Focus on Energy by Alliant Energy, CPT has implemented multiple energy-saving projects like nine rooftop units installed in 2019 that include Advanced Rooftop Controls. These new units will help CPT save 14,575 therms of natural gas and 301,049 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. That’s enough to power more than 250 homes for a full year.

Iowa adds feed mill, expands plastic packaging manufacturer

Landus Cooperative grows feed business in Yale, Iowa

Landus Cooperative, a farmer-owned agricultural cooperative headquartered in Ames, Iowa, announced plans to increase their swine and beef feed business.  The company is investing $22 million in a new 400,000-ton mill on an 80-acre site in Yale, Iowa. The project will add 18 positions to the current 725 full-time employees.

Landus Cooperative provides bulk feed and toll-milling services to the swine, beef, dairy cow and poultry production industries. The company has a global reach, distributing their line of specialized, high-quality, soybean meal-based products across six continents.

Amcor Rigid Plastics to expand in Ames, Iowa

Amcor Rigid Plastics, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of rigid plastic packaging for the food, beverage, spirits, personal/home care and healthcare industries, is expanding their manufacturing operation in Ames, Iowa. This project represents a $3.1 million capital investment that will bring six new production lines and result in the creation of 42 new employment opportunities.

Amcor operates 59 facilities in 13 countries including an additional plant served by Alliant Energy in Centerville, Iowa.

Wellman Dynamics to grow in Creston, Iowa

Wellman Dynamics announced the purchase of a 315,000-square-foot manufacturing, office and warehouse space along with approximately 20 acres of land in Creston, Iowa. Initial production at the new facility will include castings manufactured by Wellman for the CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter being manufactured for the U.S. Marine Corps.

Work on the $45 million project will take place over the next 12 months with plans for production in the facility targeted for 2022. Wellman Dynamics will create 50 new jobs to add to their existing workforce of 400 people.

Locate at the Midwest’s food and fuel hotspot in Ames, Iowa

If you’re looking for an attractive community with a well-educated workforce, take a closer look at Ames, Iowa.

Ames is well-positioned along the Interstate 35 corridor and home to land-grant Iowa State University, a tier-one research institution with 36,000 students. The university provides global reach in engineering plus agricultural expertise focused on plant science and animal health. Add to this the National Centers for Animal Health, a federal Department of Energy Laboratory, and the Iowa State University Research Park with nearly 90 companies all located in Ames and you can see a community poised for significant growth in a wide variety of industries.

Centrally and conveniently located in Iowa’s Cultivation Corridor, Ames is known for its healthy, stable economy and flourishing cultural life. The area is an attractive destination for new businesses to locate and for existing businesses to expand.

Prairie View Industrial Center
Ames is home to one of Alliant Energy’s premier sites. The Prairie View Industrial Center is a 730-acre site with excellent access to transportation. It is located just east of Interstate 35 and north of four-lane U.S. Highway 30. The Union Pacific Railroad serves the property off the adjacent double-track east to west mainline.

See the Digital Manufacturing Lab Powered by Alliant Energy in action

This exciting partnership between Alliant Energy and Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) helps businesses evaluate problems and find opportunities using innovative technology.

The lab utilizes departments across Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. It brings students and faculty from a variety of backgrounds to help companies solve problems and stimulate innovative ideas. CIRAS can help industry test new technology such as cobots, 3-D scanning and other technology and train staff how to use it.