Singleteary: We will open
The owner of a Wells food-processing plant is reassuring the public his business will be up and running again this year.
“We’re getting close; very close to finishing the construction we need in order to operate,” says Steve Singleteary of Singleteary Food Solutions.
On Wednesday morning, Singleteary walks through the plant waiting for a prospective customer to arrive.
“We’ve installed a production line than can process several thousand pounds of meat an hour,” he says.
New equipment, lights and other upgrades are all part of a project that began in June 2010 after purchase of the facility and property was completed.
“We pretty much have remodeled a 100,000 square foot facility,” Singleteary says. “It’s state-of-the art.”
In March 2010, the plant opened with about 15 employees. That number got to as high as 30.
While there was some production, most of the work involved product development and testing.
When the workforce was reduced until the plant was upgraded, that caused local residents and government officials to wonder about the company’s fate.
Singleteary admits he’s heard all the rumors and “coffee talk” surrounding the business.
“I’m here. I’m committed. I haven’t gone anywhere and don’t plan to,” he says. ” This isn’t a pie-in-the-sky thing. My name and everything are on the line.”
Singleteary says when he purchased the former Wells Co-Pack facility it was with the understanding remodeling and additional space was needed.
Unanticipated infrastructure improvements– such as plumbing, electrical, new floors and ammonia system — have delayed the plant’s opening.
“During construction we found one thing after another that needed to be upgraded,” he says. “It increased our overall cost by 35 percent and the construction process by eight to nine months.”
To help pay the extra costs, the business received a loan from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation in April and one later from the Region 9 Development Agency.
“A tremendous investment has been made here,” he says. “We’ve used local contractors and help for everything.”
Singleteary says a 15,000-square-foot addition will be part of a production area totaling about 60,000 square feet.
Company officials haven’t just been waiting for the plant to be ready to open.
Singleteary says the company is the certified supplier of poultry products to the USDA’s commodity program and for school lunches.
In addition, other meat products will be produced for restaurant and grocery store chains, and large food distributors. The start-up business venture received private, local and state funding.
The company received $150,000 from the Wells EDA’s revolving loan fund that does not have to be repaid, and the county’s EDA also contributed $100,000.
In addition, the Department of Economic and Employment Development (DEED) awarded a $500,000 grant under the Minnesota Investment Fund program. Of that amount, $100,000 will be forgiven.
Also, there is assistance from the state’s Job Opportunity Building Zones (JOBZ) program, which can waive taxes up to 12 years for qualifying commercial and industrial enterprises.
Company officials in the past have said they hope the plant will eventually employ more than 200 in three to five years.