Senators, CJ execs talk job training
By BILL SHEA
About 600 construction workers are entering the final stages of assembling the $320 million CJ Bio America plant west of Fort Dodge.
The process of starting up the lysine production facility is to begin in October, according to J.T. Nam, the company’s president.
In a temporary office building in the shadow of the developing plant, Nam and other company leaders met Tuesday with state Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs; state Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge; and Dan Kinney, the president of Iowa Central Community College. Training the employees who will operate the plant was a main theme of their morning meeting.
Nam said the college is a ”very great place to train our workers.”
He said the company training program called CJ College has used space at Iowa Central’s east campus in the former Smithway
MotorXpress compound on Webster County Road P59 and the main campus on Kenyon Road.
The company will employ 160 people at the plant. Nam said 126 of them have been hired.
He added that the actual number of workers at the site will be about 180 when the employees of security and logistics contractors are included.
Kinney said the ability to train the company’s employees wouldn’t exist without the financial support of the state government.
Beall said two of the new education programs in Iowa have local roots. He said that during a meeting at the college last November, Ann Waynar, the school’s coordinator of adult literacy, reported that Iowa was one of three state’s with no direct funding for programs that teach adults to read. Beall said he and Gronstal, who was also at the session, decided then and there to change that. Now, the state has a $5.5 million adult literacy program.
”Ann helped put a face on the issue,” he said.
The state also has a form of financial aid, called Kibbie grants, for students seeking training in technical fields. The grants are named after former state Senate President Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, who led the effort to create Iowa’s community colleges in the 1960s. Beall said the grants are for students who will earn a certification in a technical field, but will not get an associate’s degree.
Kinney said the college will launch a process technology program next fall that will teach mechanical work and science. It’s a program he said will provide a basis for getting jobs places like CJ Bio America.
”It’s needed around the area, not only here,” he said.
The CJ Bio America plant is located in the industrial park called Iowa’s Crossroads of Global Innovation. It will make 100,000 metric tons of lysine, an amino acid used in feed for hogs, every year. About 70 percent of the lysine will be in powder form; the rest will be liquid. Some liquid fertilizer will also be made there.
Dextrose from the nearby Cargill plant will be the raw material used to make lysine.