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Ceremony launches plant

By Staff | May 15, 2012

Tae Jin Jeong, Bio Division of CJ CheilJedang chief operating officer speaks Monday afternoon during the groundbreaking ceremony for their new plant west of Fort Dodge.

By BILL SHEA/For Farm News

About 170 new jobs, better prices for farm commodities, and deeper ties between Iowa and South Korea were celebrated Monday afternoon with a groundbreaking ceremony that formally launched construction of the CJ Bio America plant in Webster County.

The event began with traditional music performed by a six-member percussion group from the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center in Chicago, Ill. It ended with clumps of dirt flying off the ends of golden-colored shovels.

About 200 people gathered in a large tent at the plant site in the North Central Ag Industrial Park for the ceremony.

Between the music and the actual groundbreaking, a series of business and government leaders talked about the importance of the $323 million plant where corn starch from the nearby Cargill facility will be turned into amino acids, principally lysine, for use in livestock feed.

Tae Jin Jeong, left, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds prepare to toss ceremonial dirt Monday. Construction on the new plant was scheduled to begin immediately.

”It is our first manufacturing plant in the United States of America,” said Tae Jin Jeong, the chief operating officer of the bio division of the local plant’s parent company, CJ CheilJedang Corp. That parent company is based in South Korea.

”2,000 years ago, the proudest thing was to say I am a citizen of Rome,” Tae added. ”Now, today, for CJ and me the proudest words we could say is we are part of Iowa community.”

Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds greeted the company’s leaders by saying ”welcome to the great state of Iowa,” in Korean during her remarks.

”We are so proud that you chose to build here and make a substantial investment in Iowa,” Reynolds added. ”This is truly a testament to our communities, to our work force and the hard work and dedication of so many people in this state.”

The CJ Bio America plant is the first of what local leaders hope will be many companies that will set up shop in the Ag Industrial Park to use byproducts from the Cargill plant. Cargill will use a wet milling process to turn corn into sugars, such as dextrose, and ethanol. That process generate byproducts and opportunities for other companies Cargill leaders call over-the-fence customers to use those byproducts to make even more things.

Webster County Supervisor Keith Dencklau, left, listens during the groundbreaking speeches.

Gov. Terry Branstad said the industrial park will become a bioscience complex.

”We are very excited about what this bioscience complex is going to mean,” he said.

”The strength of our agricultural economy comes from Iowa farmers and from companies like Cargill and CJ which will produce safe and reliable products to help us feed the growing world population,” he added.

Dallas Tonsager, the U.S. undersecretary of agriculture for rural development, said agriculture creates one of every 12 jobs in the country.

”Thanks to the hard work of America’s farmers and ranchers, we’re able to count on agriculture and rural America to help drive this nation back from the deepest recession many of us have ever seen,” Tonsager said.

Bio Division of CJ Cheiljedang chief operating officer Tae Jin Jeong, at left, welcomes Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to the groundbreaking ceremony for their new plant west of Fort Dodge.

Greg Page, the chairman and chief executive officer of Cargill, said the corporate culture and values of CJ Bio America are very much like those of Midwesterners.

”We look forward to a long and prosperous partnership together,” Page said.

Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich thanked the City Council and Iowa Central Community College for their roles in economic development.

When it came time to actually break ground, one of the ceremonial shovels was handed to a man who is neither an executive or an elected official. Don Jordison, of Fort Dodge, was chosen to participate in the ceremony because he is an Army veteran of the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Chul Huh, the South Korean consul general based in Chicago, called Jordison a symbol of the close relationship his country has with Iowa.

During the groundbreaking, dirt was tossed toward a field where the heavy duty groundbreaking has been going on for a little over a month. Earthmovers have been preparing the ground there since the last week of March.

The plant is to open in early 2014.

The company will hire 50 to 60 people this year, and hire another 100 people in 2013.

Dennis Plautz, the chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, was the master of ceremonies at the groundbreaking. People were brought to the site by buses that departed from the Best Western Starlite Village Inn & Suites.

Contact Bill Shea at (515) 573-2141 or “mailto:bshea@messengernews.net”>bshea@messengernews.net

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