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East Penn to build new plant, expanded operations in Iowa
Cedar Valley Business Online
Bob Flicker, chief operating officer of East Penn Manufacturing, talks about plans to expand the battery manufacturer's presence in Oelwein at a formal announcement on November 17, 2015.
Bob Flicker, chief operating officer of East Penn Manufacturing, talks about plans to expand the battery manufacturer's presence in Oelwein at a formal announcement on November 17, 2015.

East Penn Manufacturing Co. is building a new $70 million facility and bringing 350 state-incented jobs to Oelwein, a city of about 6,400 residents about 35 miles northeast of Waterloo, Iowa.

Officials finalized details on the plant and held a formal announcement Tuesday evening in Oelwein.

In August, the Iowa Economic Development Authority had authorized a financial package totaling about $3.1 million in tax credits, plus 1.75 million in direct financial assistance – half by interest-free loan and the other, with a forgivable loan.

The company’s capital investment is just over $64 million, according to documents the IEDA provided. That exceeded the investment of $56.3 million needed to qualify for assistance and the $55.4 million necessary to receive tax credits, the IEDA said.

East Penn, a Philadelphia area-based battery manufacturer that has a total workforce of more than 6,700, has operated a distribution center in Oelwein for eight years. The company, which currently employs 83 workers, has been working in space in a building that metal manufacturer Donaldson Co. had occupied for 45 years before it closed in 2000.

The new 218,600-square-foot facility will “fill, form, finish” and distribute automotive batteries in support of East Penn’s Transportation/SLI (Starting, Lighting, and Ignition) battery division, said Jamie Letzring, Oelwein’s city administrator.

The project will include warehousing, auxiliary equipment buildings, fleet service building, and personnel facilities, as well as modifications in road access, water, gas, communication and electrical upgrades to satisfy electrical demand.

East Penn will be the largest employer in the city when the project – scheduled for completion in the spring or summer of 2018 – is completed and fully staffed, Letzring said.

“This is a welcome addition to our industrial park,” she said.

Mercy Hospital and the local school district currently are the largest local employers, at about 200 workers each, are presently Oelwein’s largest employers, Letzring said, but she also noted that Transco Railway Products Inc., which provides freight railcar repair, modification and rebuilding services, will employ about 150 workers when a current expansion is completed.

East Penn also operates an Iowa plant in Corydon, but that operation serves a different function and thus won’t compete with the Oelwein plant, Letzring said.

The new plant will be just east of Iowa Highway 150, on the southern edge of town.

“We’re extending 14th Street SE from Highway 150 to Outer Road, using a grant from DOT to do that,” Letzring said.

The company has not yet decided on a general contractor for the project, Letzring said.
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