Manufacturers grow in Iowa and Wisconsin

General Mills sign

Rockline Industries to add new jobs in Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Rockline Industries based in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, announced a $19.7 million expansion along with the creation of 54 new jobs over the next three years. The family-owned company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of coffee filters and consumer, health care, industrial and institutional wet wipes. Rockline plans to double its household disinfecting wipes manufacturing capacity in Sheboygan.

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is supporting Rockline’s expansion with up to $380,000 in state income tax credits over the next three years. The expansion will allow Rockline to double its production of disinfecting wet wipes.

“We are very fortunate to have an amazing company like Rockline in Sheboygan County,” said Brian Doudna, executive director, Sheboygan Economic Development Corporation. “They continue to invest in our community and its people. This expansion was supported by both the WEDC and the Department of Workforce Development’s Wisconsin fast forward program to support the creation of jobs, capital investment and training on new equipment that will increase wages and skills of the labor force.”

General Mills signGeneral Mills expands with investment in Cedar Rapids facility

Minneapolis-based food manufacturer General Mills announced a $57 million expansion of their manufacturing operation in Cedar Rapids. The expansion will add 60 new jobs. The plant currently employs 615 people. The project will improve existing production flows while investing in new and more efficient equipment, modifications to existing walls to house conveyors, piping ductwork, electrical upgrades, and roof penetrations for structural support.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority approved various tax credits for the expansion in Cedar Rapids. General Mills has until 2023 to hire the 60 new workers with average wages between $23.49 and $29.62 per hour.

Retired coal plants’ infrastructure present opportunities

Edgewater Generating Station

Edgewater Generating StationAlliant Energy announced we will close our two remaining coal plants in Wisconsinthe Edgewater Generating Station in Sheboygan, WI, and the Columbia Energy Center near Portage, WI. We will retire the Edgewater Generating Station by the end of 2022 and the Columbia Energy Center by the end of 2024.  

Working closely with community leaders, our team seeks to transform these retired coal-burning facilities into valuable community assets. In 2020, we partnered with Beloit College to transform a retired coal-burning facility into The Powerhouse, a new gateway to downtown Beloit along the city’s riverfront.   

Robust infrastructure creates prime locations for industry  

Once remediated, these two sites present exciting redevelopment opportunities. They each have heavy electrical infrastructure in place, and offer easy access to freshwaterlevel three fiber and two key markets: Madison and Milwaukee.  

Retired coal plant properties can easily be adapted into data centers without saddling the new tenant with upfront costs or reduced efficiencies. Larger bays with efficient floor plates and weight capacity to support high-density server racks allow for scalability, efficiency and flexibility. Critical factors include ample and reliable power along with cooling capacity. They are designed to withstand severe weather conditionsPhysical security measures such as perimeterfencing with surveillance cameras are already installed on-site. 

The physical layout of these facilities can also be easily repurposed for indoor vertical farming: Bays with high ceilings can accommodate vertically stacked layers, artificial lights and rotating beds to maximize crop output. Situated at the epicenter of eight large regional/national grocery retailers’ perishable distribution centers offers the best hope for scaling of profitability.  

Property details 

1. Edgewater Generating Station – Sheboygan, Wisconsin 

The Edgewater Generating Station is a 265-acre site that currently generates 380 MW of energy in Sheboygan. Sheboygan is located roughly 50 miles north of Milwaukee and 64 miles south of Green Bay. The plant sits on the shores of Lake Michigan and is just minutes from Interstate 43. Approximately 48,000 people live in Sheboygan, with more than 115,000 people within the greater metropolitan area 

2. Columbia Energy Center – Columbia, Wisconsin 

The Columbia Energy Center is a 3,000-acre site that currently generates over 1,100 MW of energy in Columbia County. The facility is just outside of Portage, which is 35 miles north of Madison. The plant is located on the Wisconsin River, just minutes from Interstates 90/94 and Interstate 39. Portage is the closest city to the plant. An estimated 10,400 people live in Portage. The city is part of the greater Madison metropolitan area, with a population of roughly 665,000 people. 

Advancing our clean energy future 

Decommissioning our remaining Wisconsin coal plants – and adding new solar facilities – are a part of Alliant Energy’s Clean Energy Blueprint. We will add another 414 megawatts (MW) of solar in Wisconsin. The six projects we recently submitted to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) for approval move us closer to our goal to generate 1,000MW of solar electricity by the end of 2023.  

As we move forward with our sustainable energy plan, Alliant Energy has set a clean energy vision that aspires to reach net-zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2050. We plan to eliminate coal from our generation fleet by 2040.  

Manufacturing 4.0: A strategic plan for a critical industry sector

manufacturing equipment

manufacturing equipmentThe Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) recently issued a much-anticipated Manufacturing 4.0 plan, which states that Iowa manufacturers must pursue advanced manufacturing products and processes that incorporate cutting-edge, innovative technologies. 

This report stresses that to remain competitive in the global economy, Iowa manufacturers must implement industry 4.0 principles and practices. These include internet-connected devices, additive manufacturing, advanced robotics, augmented reality and cybersecurity. Digital technologies may not replace jobs, but they will transform how work is performed – how products are designed, fabricated, used and serviced. 

Iowa’s ability to compete globally, according to the report, will depend on how successfully manufacturers transition to new operating modelsSmall-to-medium sized manufacturers will face mounting pressure from the larger manufacturers they supply. 

This plan outlines five strategic priorities: 

  1. Adopting and Utilizing Manufacturing 4.0 Technology 
  2. Enabling Infrastructure of Digital Technologies 
  3. Improving Supply Chain Linkages 
  4. Accelerating Manufacturing Startups and Scale-ups 
  5. Ensuring an Effectively Trained Workforce 

 Each section suggests specific actionto achieve success. The plan concludes with a Call-to-Action to leaders from both the public and private sectors to rally together in a coordinated and focused vision. 

Alliant Energy and Iowa State University’s Center for Industrial Research and Service (CIRAS) created theDigital Manufacturing Lab Powered by Alliant Energy to help businesses evaluate problems and find opportunities using manufacturing 4.0 technology. The lab 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. Iowa manufacturers are encouraged to tap into this valuable resource. To learn more, visit  

Helping businesses provide training opportunities for a skilled workforce

welder equipment

welder equipmentOften considered the best and most flexible jobtraining program in the United States, the Iowa Industrial New Jobs Training Program (260E) funds wide variety of employee training and development programs for companies that expand their operations or locate a new facility in the state. The program helps meet your needs, whether you require highly specialized educational programs or basic skills training for new positions. 

The program is financed through bonds sold by the regional community college. Depending on wages paid, the business then diverts either 1.5% or 3% of the Iowa state withholding taxes generated by the new positions to the community college to retire the bonds. This allows companies to offer training at essentially no cost, using funds that otherwise would have been paid to the state as withholding taxes.  

Besides increasing their worker’s productivity and company profits, businesses that participate in the program may also be reimbursed for up to 50% of their annual gross payroll costs spent for on-the-job training. They may also be eligible to receive an Iowa New Jobs Tax Credit if they increase employment in the state by at least 10%. Training can be provided by community or other local colleges, or private contractors, including in-house trainers.  

To be eligible, a business may be new to Iowa, expand their Iowa workforce or relocate to the state. Alliant Energy’s experienced Economic Development team helps companies navigate the program requirements.  

To be eligible for funding, a business must: 

  • Engage in interstate or intrastate commerce to manufacture, assemble, warehouse, wholesale or conduct research and development. 

How does the program work? 

  • Iowa’s 15 community college administer trainingAward amounts and training plans depend upon the number of new jobs pledged and starting wages. 
  • Participants may be eligible for reimbursement up to 50% of the approved award amount for on-the-job training. 

The funds can be used for a variety of valuable services, including: 

  • Job-related instruction. 
  • Skills assessment. 
  • Training equipment, materials and supplies. 
  • Customized or general instruction at your company facilities. 
  • Reimbursement of training travel costs for employees or trainers. 
  • College tuition, books and fees. 
  • Payment of a portion of new employees’ wages during training period. 

New Jobs Tax Credit 

The Iowa New Jobs Tax Credit is an Iowa corporate income tax credit available to companies that enter into a New Jobs Training Agreement (260E) and expand their Iowa employment base by 10% or more. 

The amount of this one-time tax credit will depend upon the wages a company pays and the year in which the tax credit is first claimed. The maximum tax credit in 2021 is $1,944 per new employee. Unused tax credits may be carried forward up to ten years. 

How do I get started? 

Contact us at or visit the Iowa Economic Development Authority website.  

Pet food manufacturer announces new production facility in Dubuque, Iowa

woman on porch with dog

Simmons Pet Food, a trusted leader in private label and contract manufacturing of pet food, announced in December that they will add another manufacturing plant in Dubuque, Iowa. At full capacity, the new operation will bring over 270 new jobs to the community.

The operation will be in a modern and spacious 250,000-square-foot facility in the Dubuque Industrial Center South. The building was formerly occupied by Flexsteel. The company plans to invest approximately $80 million in the project over the next three years. In the first phase of the project, Simmons will retrofit the building to manufacture canned pet food and buy the necessary production equipment. This should be completed by July 2021. In the second phase, the company will buy equipment for a second pet food canning line and construct a 75,000-square-foot distribution center and warehouse. The second phase should be completed during the second quarter of 2023.

“We are pleased to establish operations in the community of Dubuque and bring new jobs to the area with industry-leading pay and benefits,” said Scott Salmon, president of Simmons Pet Food. “The region has a quality workforce and is an ideal location to service our customers across the U.S. and Canada.”

Alliant Energy’s robust and reliable electric system attracted Simmons to Dubuque. Their operation is 24/7 and relies heavily upon uninterrupted power. Alliant Energy designed an upgrade to the primary service and a new redundant feed. The company invested approximately $1 million in both projects to serve Simmons and all future customers in the area. The project is scheduled to be completed by May 1, 2021.

As the sixth-largest pet food manufacturer in America, Simmons is an excellent addition to Alliant Energy’s current customer portfolio of pet food manufacturers, including Nestlé Purina PetCare, Mars Petcare and NaturPak Pet.

Economic development partners lead Alliant Energy to strong industrial growth in 2020

Because industrial growth strengthens our growth, Alliant Energy’s economic development partnerships are vital to our success. Despite the economic uncertainty sparked by the pandemic, 2020 marked significant industrial growth across Alliant Energy’s Iowa and Wisconsin service area. We successfully assisted in major expansions and recruited several new companies throughout our market.

  • 31 industrial projects.
  • Over $906 million in new capital investment.
  • 2,267 new jobs created.

“At Alliant Energy, our purpose is to serve customers and build strong communities,” said John Larsen, Alliant Energy chairman, president and chief executive officer. “Our long-term partnership with communities and local economic groups is one more way we bring that purpose to life.”

Because of our strong partnerships, Alliant Energy was once again recognized as a “Top Utility in Economic Development” by Site Selection magazine in 2020. Alliant Energy was selected from among the estimated 3,300 electric utility companies operating across the United States. It was the only utility in Iowa and Wisconsin acknowledged for this prominent honor.

EEI names Alliant Energy and ITC as 2020 Emergency Response Award Recipients

Line workers restoring power after the derecho

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) – the association that represents all U.S. investor-owned electric companies – has named Alliant Energy and ITC as recipients of EEI’s Emergency Response Award for working collaboratively to restore electricity following the August 10 derecho.

“We truly appreciate the patience, support and kindness from our customers while our crews worked tirelessly to restore services as quickly and safely as possible,” stated Terry Kouba, president of Alliant Energy’s Iowa Utility Company. “We are thankful for the mutual assistance we received from companies across the country and the partnership with ITC. Together, we showed how we Care for others and Do the right thing, while working at extraordinary speed to get the lights back on for all.”

Johnsonville expanding Sheboygan County Wisconsin operations

Johnsonville headquarters sign

Johnsonville headquarters signJohnsonville, the top brand of sausage in America, is expanding operations in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, with the purchase of a 200,000-square-foot facility that had been Wigman Mills headquarters. The sausage company will use the space to innovate new cooking methods and increase production of its fully cooked sausage products.

Johnsonville plans to modify the building for sausage production in 2021 and begin operations in early 2022. The $35 million project will add 75 new jobs to their current 2,000 team members. Johnsonville products are available in all 50 states and more than 45 countries, including China, Philippines, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Mexico and Canada.

Wigwam is relocating its headquarters, manufacturing and outlet store to Sheboygan’s northside.

Japan’s Spiber Inc. announces new production operation in Clinton, Iowa

ADM Clinton, IA
ADM Clinton, IA

Image credit: 

Spiber, a Japan-based biotech company that produces lab-grown proteins, has announced its first facility in the U.S will be in Clinton, Iowa. The operations will expand production of its plant-based polymers, such as spider silk used in clothing and other consumer products. Spiber is partnering with ADM to deploy state-of-the-art technology to Clinton County.

Spiber produces biobased, biodegradable protein polymers for use in apparel, auto parts and other products. For example, the company teamed up with The North Face Japan to release a line of jackets made with Spiber’s Brewed Protein™ polymers, which are produced through a plant-based fermentation process, spun into fibers and woven into fabric. Spiber’s technology has gained attention as a platform to generate alternative fibers to nylon and other petroleum-based materials, as well as animal fibers with high carbon footprints.

“Iowa has a deep understanding of the positive impact potential of projects like ours and has created an environment that is conducive to success,” said Daniel Meyer, president of Spiber America LLC.

The $101.4 million project in Clinton stems from a relationship between Spiber and Iowa that started with the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) years ago and solidified during Governor Kim Reynolds’ trade mission to Japan last year.

Four mid-size manufacturers see continued growth in Iowa

worker welding
worker welding

Image credit: XL Specialized Trailers

XL Specialized Trailers plans a $7.5 million expansion project that will add 55,000 square feet to its facility to their facility in Manchester. The company is a market-leading manufacturer of heavy haul and specialized trailers, XL offering superior hauling solutions for the construction, commercial, agriculture, oil and gas, wind energy and custom transportation industries.

ProPulse, a company specializing in the manufacturing of high-pressure hoses used in pressure washers, agricultural machinery and a variety of other products, recently broke ground on a 20,000-square-foot addition to its facility in Peosta. ProPulse is one of the largest high-pressure hose manufacturers in North America, producing over 1.5 million custom high-pressure hose assemblies per year.

In Tolerance, a 73-year-old company in Cedar Rapids, is expanding its facility to bring home operations currently being outsourced to other states. The company is a leader in precision custom-machined stainless steel, aluminum and plastic components and assemblies for a wide variety of applications, primarily for the commercial and military aerospace market, along with the medical, communications and food processing industries.

Lely North America Inc., part of a global manufacturer of automated dairy equipment based in the Netherlands, celebrated the start of construction of its new 100,000-square-foot headquarters in Pella. The facility will be used to produce their flagship Astronaut brand milking robot. Many people outside the dairy industry aren’t aware that tens of thousands of robotic milking machines are already operating globally. The opportunity for new market penetration is significant in North America, where the technology has not as quickly been adopted.

In total these projects have a capital investment of over $34 million while creating nearly 110 new jobs.