WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Yearlong Sales Pitch Pays Off for Lee County

Feb 10, 2020

Lee County leaders were concerned about the future of the Pinnacle Foods plant in Fort Madison after Conagra Brands acquired the company in the fall of 2018. The county set out to prove the plant could be an asset to Conagra and recently accomplished that mission.

Conagra said it will invest $31.9 million in the plant and add 91 jobs.

Dana Millard, the Economic Development Project Director for the Lee County Economic Development Group, said they demonstrated Lee County has the workforce and training facilities Conagra needs. 

“We showed them the different assets that we’ve been able to create through our Grow Lee program and through partnerships with (Southeastern) Community College and the high school as well,” she said.

Millard said Conagra will receive a $1.2 million tax credit through the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

“That is contingent on them investing the $31.9 million. And then they would receive that $1.2 million as a write-off,” MIllard said, adding the credit is also tied to the High Quality Jobs Act. LCEDG said the jobs must pay a minimum of $17.09 per hour at the beginning of the project and at least $20.51 per hour once the project is completed.

She said Conagra will bring in a new product line (canned beans).  The company will install new machinery and equipment but will not enlarge the footprint of the building. 

Millard said the goal is to have the new product line up and running by next February. She said the company plans to hire the new workers throughout the course of the next year, starting in March.

Millard said job applications can be found on Conagra’s website.  She said applicants can also get assistance by visiting an IowaWORKS office.

The Conagra plant in Lee County currently employs 450 workers.