Shearer’s Foods LLC is one of the largest producers of private-label snacks in the country, making everything from potato chips and pretzels to cookies and crackers. The American appetite for those products will likely never be sated, which is good news for the company and the driving force behind its recent $33 million expansion of its main production facility in Burlington, Iowa.
The 76,000-square-foot expansion of the Shearer’s Foods plant is expected to be a boon not only to the company’s ability to produce private label snacks for customers across the country, but also for the local economy. Shearer’s Foods Plant Technical Manager John Rempe says the project will bring jobs to the community and already has had a positive impact on the local construction scene.
Part of that positive impact was the hiring of locally based contractor SG Construction as the design/build contractor on the project. SG Construction owner Ron Massner says the contract is the result of a long-standing relationship between the contractor and Shearer’s Foods, as well as a strong example of the company’s expertise in design/build projects of this scope. Despite the challenges that came along with building within an operating production facility, Massner says SG Construction has been able to keep the work on track and in line for a successful completion this summer. When the work is completed, Shearer’s Foods will be an ideal position to meet the growing demand for its products nationwide.
The plant expansion will provide Shearer’s Foods with much more space and increased ability to serve its customers through added volume. “It adds incremental capacity for the site, as well as increased capability to produce various products at a greater efficiency,” Rempe says.
In addition, the expanded facility will eventually add approximately 100 new jobs within the Shearer’s Foods facility, which Rempe says will be a major boost to Burlington. “It increases the opportunity for those looking for a great place to earn a living, which is excellent for the local and surrounding communities,” he says.
Massner says SG Construction and Shearer’s Foods have had a long and fruitful relationship that has lasted more than 25 years, which is a major component of why the company received the contract to build the new expansion. He says the company’s work for Shearer’s Foods has included extensive maintenance work as well as new construction.
Although the overall complexion of the work being done on site was standard for SG Construction, Massner says there were some potential challenges because of the relatively tight timeline established for the project. Fortunately, the contractor’s experience with design/build helped keep the work on schedule. “Designs are in progress while we’re working,” Massner says. “There’s constant work in progress.”
Rempe says the long-term connection between Shearer’s Foods and SG Construction also was a significant factor in keeping the project on schedule. He says the two companies’ ability and willingness to talk through any issues or concerns made it easy to work through possible constraints that may not be typical of a regular construction zone. It also proved useful in helping SG Construction maintain the pace of construction while working around Shearer’s Foods’ schedules.
“I think it’s been a great working relationship, with open communication and effective plans,” Rempe says. “The project has been able to obtain a balance between maintaining operations and introducing new construction.”
Massner says SG Construction has built a strong reputation in the area because of the pride it takes in its work and its ability to guarantee the work it performs for its customers. “We have a lot of our own trades in-house,” he says. “We don’t have to subcontract a lot of that.”
Although the company has its own carpenters, painters and other trades in-house, when SG Construction did need to subcontract portions of the work on the Shearer’s Foods facility, it hired locally based subcontractors. Massner says the company has built up a good relationship with many local subcontractors over its more than 30 years of business. “I think our company has stood the test of time,” he says.