After more than a year of behind-the-scenes work, “Project Superior” is starting to take shape.
The Scoular Company broke ground on its new manufacturing facility in Seward Aug. 6.
Company executives, Seward Mayor Josh Eickmeier, Sen. Mark Kolterman and Gov. Pete Ricketts were part of the groundbreaking ceremony, along with Seward City Council members and members of the Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership.
Afterward, they met at Harvest Hall for a celebratory lunch with SCCDP member businesses.
The Scoular (pronounced school-er) facility will manufacture freeze-dried pet food ingredients that will then be distributed to pet food manufacturers.
Over $50 million will be invested to build the facility. Dirt work has begun at the site at the Seward/Lincoln Regional Rail Campus south of Seward.
Scoular project manager Amy Patterson said the building process is expected to take 14 months. The 105,000-square-foot facility is expected to open in the fall of 2020, bringing 100 new jobs with it.
“The simplified ingredient supply chain provided by this new facility will efficiently meet the fast-growing demand for freeze-dried protein ingredients,” according to a press release from the company.
Scoular CEO Paul Maass was among those who spoke during the lunch.
“Our customers were asking for these freeze-dried ingredients, and there was no solution that we could find,” Maass said. “We thought, ‘why don’t we be the solution?’”
Maass said Seward responded positively during the site selection process, beating out other communities and states the company looked at as potential places to build.
“It was very competitive, and you won straight out. Incredible community, incredible support,” he said. “We started in Nebraska. We love Nebraska. We chose this because we really believe it will make a difference for us.”
The Scoular Company started 127 years ago. Gov. Pete Ricketts pointed to the company as an example of one that has helped grow the state’s economy.
“We really appreciate what you have done for Nebraska,” Ricketts said. “Seward is a fantastic community that pulls together to attract companies like Scoular. No company invests in a generic place called ‘Nebraska.’ They invest in welcoming communities.”
Ricketts highlighted the contributions of SCCDP President and CEO Jonathan Jank in bringing Scoular to Seward.
“Years ago, I first met Jonathan when he was laying out this vision (for Seward). You have really driven that vision,” he told Jank.
Jank thanked all the individuals and entities who had a hand in the recruitment process for bringing new industry to town.
They worked for about a year on the logistics of what Jank called “Project Superior” before announcing the project to the public.
Those involved included the Nebraska departments of Economic Development, Transportation, Agriculture, Labor and Environment and Energy, Black Hills Energy, the Nebraska Public Power District, Bluestem Network, Great Plains Communications, Olsson, Sen. Mark Kolterman and his office, Ricketts and his office, Seward City Administrator Greg Butcher, Seward City Engineer Jake Vasa, Eickmeier and employees from city departments, the Seward City Council, which purchased the land for the rail campus and agreed to pay the costs of building infrastructure, the public and private members of the SCCDP, as well as the SCCDP Board of Directors that formally endorsed the project, those who worked on the site selection and those with Gray Construction, based in Kentucky, who will build the facility.
Jank also thanked the SCCDP staff and ambassadors, the Seward County Ag Society for use of Harvest Hall for the lunch during the week of the county fair and Sparetime Lounge for catering the event.
“So many in this room made today possible,” Jank said. “We are excited about the kickoff for our rail campus and Scoular being a part of it. We’re excited for the partnership for years to come.”
Eickmeier said one of the best parts of his job is getting to brag a little bit about his hometown of Seward—something he was able to do while trying to help recruit Scoular.
“You do a lot of recruiting, and there are a lot of misses,” Eickmeier said. “It’s like fishing. You don’t catch every fish. (Scoular) is a perfect fit for us as a community, and we hope we’re a perfect fit for them, too. We hope they truly do feel at home in our community.”
Kolterman emphasized the effects a company like Scoular has on the state’s economy and workforce, and said the company’s values were a good match for Seward.
“Family values rise right to the top. We heard loud and clear from the people at Scoular that that’s important to you, too,” he said to the executives in attendance.
According to the press release, hiring for the manufacturing facility will be done in phases and is expected to begin in early 2020.