CJ Bio America plant designed for growth

The CJ Bio America plant taking shape west of Fort Dodge has been designed with future expansion in mind, a company leader said Thursday morning.

”We could very easily double our production, and that’s the hope of the future,” said Luke Palmer, the company’s general affairs manager.

The plant, he said, is expected to open on Nov. 1 and reach its full production capacity during the first quarter of 2014.

At full capacity, it will annually produce 100,000 tons of lysine for use in animal feed, Palmer told members of the Agriculture Relations Committee of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance. He spoke to the group during its monthly meeting at Perkins Restaurant & Bakery, 511 S. 32nd St.

The plant will have 130 to 170 employees, according to Palmer. The majority of them will be plant operators who will earn about $45,000 a year.

He said that as of last week, 115 people had been hired. About 30 percent of them came from outside the Fort Dodge area, he added.

CJ Bio America is part of CJ CheilJedang Corp. based in South Korea. Worldwide, the company has about 68,000 employees and sales worth $23.1 billion annually.

The company decided to build its first American plant in the industrial park known as Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation in large measure because of the presence of Cargill, which is currently converting the unused former Tate & Lyle plant into a corn wet milling facility. Dextrose produced by Cargill will be pumped through pipes to the nearby CJ Bio America plant, where it will be used to make lysine.

”Being from Fort Dodge, it was pretty upsetting to see Tate & Lyle bail out, but I honestly think that’s probably one of the best things that could happen because in working with Cargill and in talking to other companies that work with Cargill they’re probably the best partner for an over-the-fence company like CJ,” Palmer said.

”It’s just an open door,” he said of the relationship between the two companies. ”I mean, it’s almost sometimes like we’re one company because they’re so helpful.”

According to Palmer, other major factors that drew the company to Webster County include dependable and affordable utilities, the assistance of state and local leaders and the ability to make sales throughout the Midwest.

Lysine is ”one of the essential amino acids for muscle growth,” he said.

To make the lysine, CJ Bio America will use 250,000 tons of dextrose annually.

”In talking to Cargill, that pretty much doesn’t put a dent into what they can supply us,” Palmer said.

The finished product will be in both liquid and powder forms. Palmer said 70 percent of it will be shipped by rail.

Some liquid fertilizer will also be made at the plant.

Palmer said the plant will use 230,000 gallons of water daily, but added that it would not take that much from the public water supply every day because much of it would be recycled within the facility.