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Camso celebrates grand opening at new Iowa facility
Camso employee Travis Kruse (center) gives a tour of the Peosta facility to his grandparents Liz (from left) and Hubert Decker, of Cascade, Iowa, and Janet Laban (right center) and Jim Linden (right), both of Dubuque, on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018
Eileen Meslar-Telegraph Herald
Camso employee Travis Kruse (center) gives a tour of the Peosta facility to his grandparents Liz (from left) and Hubert Decker, of Cascade, Iowa, and Janet Laban (right center) and Jim Linden (right), both of Dubuque, on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018

PEOSTA, Iowa — About 250 people gathered at Camso’s new Peosta manufacturing facility Thursday afternoon to celebrate the company’s recent expansion and the potential for more growth in the future.  Formerly known as Camoplast Solideal, Camso moved its new, 240,000-square-foot facility at 8650 Enterprise Drive in late 2017.

Plant Director Patrick Fortin said Thursday’s grand opening provided an opportunity to celebrate a significant transition. “Today is a big milestone for me and for the team at Peosta,” he said. “We had the feeling that this facility is what we needed to go where we wanted to go. We are so grateful to be a part of this new facility right here.”  The grand opening was attended by Camso employees and their family members, as well as local governmental and economic leaders.

Camso is headquartered in Quebec, Canada, and opened a location in Peosta in the late 1990s. The business brands itself as “the road-free company,” and creates wheels, off-road tires, rubber tracks and undercarriage systems. These products are sold to customers in the construction, agricultural, power sports and material-handling industries.

Over the past 18 months, the workforce in Peosta has grown by more than 60 percent. In April 2017, when the company first announced expansion plans, Camso employed 74 workers in Peosta. That number now sits at 119.

Marketing adviser Lysandre Michaud-Verreault said she expects the company to add 10 more workers in the next two months. “We really want people to look at this new facility and think, ‘This is a great place to work,’” she said.

Rick Dickinson, president and CEO of Greater Dubuque Development Corp., praised Camso’s recent growth during Thursday’s event. He said both the company and the city in which it resides have evolved and improved because of their willingness to embrace change. “People say that there is a constant to great communities and great companies,” said Dickinson. “And it is this: the only thing that is constant is change. That is so true of a city called Peosta and a company called Camso.”

Dickinson said Peosta was merely known as a “crossroads just north of Highway 20” two decades ago. Today, it is among the fastest-growing cities in state of Iowa, he noted. Camso, meanwhile, has expanded multiple times, moved facilities and introduced new products during its 20-year run in Peosta. The company has completed two expansions in less than seven years. In early 2012, Camoplast announced plans for a $2.5 million expansion and pledged to add more than 20 jobs.

Up until late 2017, the business was operating out of two separate facilities located at 8625 Enterprise Drive and 8705 Enterprise Drive. All machinery and operations were moved out of these two facilities and into the new location over the course of four months in late 2017.

Overall, Camso invested more than $6.3 million in the new property. Michaud-Verreault emphasized that the facility has allowed Camso to keep up with consistently growing demand.  “This has helped us grow our manufacturing capabilities,” she said. “This has allowed us to meet our actual demand as well as our future needs.”

Representatives from the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce were on hand to commemorate the grand opening and conduct a ceremonial ribbon-cutting. Tom Wagner, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors, said he was impressed by the new facility. “I am excited to be here,” he said. “The facility is beautiful. I am amazed at the size of the footprint. It’s a bright, clean facility and it seems like a great place to work.” More changes likely lie ahead for the Peosta manufacturer.

French tire-maker Michelin in July announced plans to acquire Camso. Through the deal, the companies would merge their “off-the-road” operations and form a new division that would be managed from Quebec.

Michaud-Verreault said the deal is in the antitrust period and, consequently, she could not discuss the transaction at length. She said it was too early to know whether the acquisition would lead to a reduction in jobs or an increase in hiring. “The way we see it is (the two companies) are a perfect match in culture and a perfect match in products,” she said. “We see it as really good news for both companies.”