DES MOINES, IOWA — Independence Premium Foods, a portfolio company of Chafia Captial Partners, a real estate and private equity firm, is setting up shop in Independence, Iowa. The company plans to acquire and retrofit a former Blue Buffalo manufacturing site in the area for the purpose of contract manufacturing various food products.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) announced Nov. 17 it provided Independence Premium Foods $1.5 million through its High Quality Jobs (HQJ) platform. The funds will support Independence Premium Foods as it invests $14.8 million into purchasing and refurbishing the former Blue Buffalo plant in Independence, where it will produce a range of food items, primarily human-grade dog food, according to Kanan Kappelman, marketing and communications team lead at IEDA.

“As the mayor of Independence, I am elated to witness Independence Premium Foods breathe new life into our community by acquiring the former Pet Food manufacturing facility,” said Independence Mayor Brad Bleichner. “This transformative move not only marks a strategic business decision but also symbolizes the adaptive spirit of Independence. We welcome Independence Premium Foods with open arms, recognizing their commitment to repurpose and reinvigorate a facility with a storied history. This venture not only adds economic value but also reinforces our town's resilience and ability to evolve. We are excited about the prospects of collaboration and growth as we embrace this exciting chapter in Independence's journey.”

Independence Premium Foods took over the facility on Dec. 1. According to IEDA, retrofitting will occur in December, and testing and pilot production will wrap up in January 2024. By November 2026, Independence Premium Foods will have undergone a second phase of site improvements and equipment installations at the Independence plant.

“As city manager of Independence, I am excited to welcome Independence Premium Foods to our community,” said Independence City Manager Matthew R. Schmitz. “Their decision to invest in and revitalize a long-standing facility in our town is not just a business transaction, it's a commitment to our shared future. This endeavor not only brings economic opportunities but also strengthens the fabric of Independence, creating a bridge between our rich history and a promising tomorrow. Independence Premium Foods exemplifies the spirit of progress, and we look forward to the positive impact their presence will have on our vibrant community.”

The project is expected to bring 229 jobs to the area, with a qualifying wage of $25.90 per hour. IEDA expects the investment by Independence Premium Foods will result in roughly $15 million in new investment capital for the state of Iowa.

“The IPF leadership team could not be more excited to start building a local team here in Independence,” said Jereb Pape, plant manager at Independence Premium Foods. “Our mission is very clear —  to establish ourselves as a leader in food manufacturing for countless years ahead. Our commitment to our team members and the surrounding community will be the key driver in turning this vision into a tangible reality.”

The company is currently hiring for production, maintenance and salaried positions starting as early as December. It will focus its recruitment efforts on rehiring people who lost their former jobs. Independence Premium Foods shared several original team leaders have agreed to stay on at the plant to assist with additional hires and lead the facility.

“At Independence Premium Foods, we don’t just offer jobs, we’re building careers and supporting our community,” said Maria Drilling, human resources manager at Independence Premium Foods. “Our focus is on empowering each individual, creating a workplace where everyone feels valued and can contribute to our shared success in Independence.”

In early October, General Mills laid off 211 employees at the Blue Buffalo manufacturing plant in Independence, according to the Iowa Workforce Development Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN), as it prepared to shutter the facility by the end of the year. Six additional layoffs are planned for Dec. 1.

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