QC closes $134M deal for Fair Oaks Foods production plant

A $134 million, 150,000-square-foot food production facility boasting 247 new jobs is being planned for the Eastern Iowa Industrial Center, company officials with Fair Oaks Foods and local leaders announced June 14.

The deal was a year in the making. Now, pending state and local project approvals, construction is expected to begin this summer on a 32-acre site near Interstate 80 in Davenport. The company plans to start operations in early 2024, according to information released at a news conference with representatives of Fair Oaks Foods, the City of Davenport, the Greater Davenport Redevelopment Corporation (GRDC) and the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce.

Fair Oaks Foods

The family-owned processing company, which is the 11th largest black-owned business in the United States, is headquartered in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. Founded in 1985, it produces and supplies a variety of protein products, including bacon, meatballs, pork and turkey sausage, to food service, national grocery stores and quick-serve restaurants globally. The Davenport facility will produce fully cooked bacon. 

On Wednesday, June 15, the Davenport City Council is expected to vote on a resolution of support and financial contribution to the project. If approved, a news release said, the city will provide a 60% tax increment financing (TIF) rebate to the company for 15 years, minus $1.1 million for the upfront cost of a pretreatment facility.

Fair Oaks Foods also has applied for a $3.4 million sales tax refund on construction materials from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), which is scheduled to consider the application on Friday, June 17.

The development is expected to have an annual economic impact of $182 million, making it the largest business attraction project in the region’s history, the development partners announced.

“I am extremely excited to expand our business to the great city of Davenport,” Michael L. Thompson, CEO and president of Fair Oaks Foods, said Tuesday. “We look forward to a long-standing relationship with the QC community, the city and the State of Iowa.”

Mr. Thompson said building a long-standing “legacy” family business has been his dream. “Davenport is a great place for families, and I am proud to add the Fair Oaks Foods family to the State of Iowa,“ he said.

“The opportunity that the city has extended to us is the right fit, at the right time, for Fair Oaks Foods. It will be a great opportunity for our people to live and thrive in this region,”  he said. “We look forward to providing new jobs and opportunities for the community.”

The Fair Oaks Foods project comes nearly 11 months after Amazon announced its own plans to build a facility in the Eastern Iowa Industrial Center in north Davenport. In July 2021, Amazon unveiled plans to build its second Iowa robotics fulfillment center, which city and chamber leaders at the time described as the largest economic development project in the region’s history. Site work and construction has been underway since summer of 2021 on the Amazon facility. However, in May, Amazon announced that completion of the robotic center – and hiring – has been pushed back to some time in 2024. 

The making of a deal

Efforts to win the Fair Oaks plant began in June 2021 when the IEDA issued a request for proposals. The Austin Company, a site selector familiar with the region, connected with the chamber to inquire about potential sites, said Mike Oberhaus, the Quad Cities Chamber’s interim CEO and its chief strategy officer. 

“Fair Oaks Foods prides itself on the relationships that it holds,” Joseph M. Freda, COO of Fair Oaks Foods, said in a release. “We continue to build our legacy through strategic partnerships that share our values of trust and integrity. This was one of the main pillars when we chose The Austin Company to guide us in our search for a location to support our growth.’

The company’s search included 177 sites in the Midwest “and ended in Davenport,” Mr. Freda said. “This a community that mirrors our values and work ethic, and we are excited to make Davenport home to our future growth.” 

To help make the deal happen, the chamber first organized a site visit in July 2021 with company representatives and the consultant, convening representatives from the city, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges and utility providers to discuss the project. The chamber coordinated a second site visit in August 2021.

The chamber collaborated and aligned with city and community partners and submitted a proposal for the Fair Oaks plant.

Mr. Oberhaus said Fair Oaks Foods made the decision based on several factors including the QC’s highly-skilled workforce, close proximity of suppliers, securing a certified site with room for expansion, and the region’s close-knit community and culture. In addition, the company was seeking a region where it could be involved and give back to the community.

“Projects like these are highly competitive and require coordination and collaboration among many partners to complete months of data gathering, resource reviews, meetings and providing a multitude of information to answer all of the questions of the potential company,” Mr. Oberhaus said. 

Added Davenport Mayor Mike Matson, “”Their investment in our community shows that the QC and Davenport is the ideal place for companies to locate and grow businesses. We look forward to this project adding to the vibrancy of our local economy.”

Fair Oaks Foods has retained The Austin Company as design-builder for the project. It expects to close on the land purchase with the GDRC, a non-profit organization that owns the available sites in the Eastern Iowa Industrial Center.

The City plans to apply for a Revitalizing Iowa’s Sound Economy (RISE) grant to assist with road improvements near the facility.

QCBJ Editor Jennifer DeWitt contributed to this report

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