MUSCATINE, Iowa — Muscatine's second-largest employer, Kent Corporation, is deepening its roots in the city with the purchase of an old hotel space adjacent to the current headquarters and the move of one of its subsidiary companies, Kent Precision Foods Group from St. Louis to Muscatine, along with 35 jobs.
"It just made sense for us to think about this as everyone in one place, joining the rest of the companies," Carol Reynolds, Vice-President, Human Resources and Communications for Kent Corporation said on Monday, December 3rd.
Kent, a family-owned business involved in corn wet milling, the production of animal feeds, and the manufacture of food products, contributes $1 million every day to Muscatine's economy.
"Certainly we’re committed to Muscatine. It’s our home, we’re celebrating our 90th year with our legacy company Kent Nutrition Group," Reynolds said.
Hiring is underway for the new jobs at a time when the unemployement rate in Iowa is among the nation's lowest - second only to Hawaii.
"We’ve been able to attract talent even in this challenging market. Our average years of service here is right around 17," Reynolds said.
Precision Foods offices in St. Louis will close March 31st. Employees already in Muscatine are working out of rented office space at the Laurel Building, located in downtown Muscatine, because Kent Corporation's current headquarters is at capacity.
"Earlier this year we did purchase the property next door to us, adjacent, it was formerly a Holiday Inn or hotel property and we’re very excited about acquiring that space to increase our footprint here on our headquarters campus," Reynolds said.
When Kent Corporation moved into its headquarters, at the northeast corner of U.S. Highway 61 and Iowa Highway 38, in 2012 150 people worked there. Now, 220 employees work at headquarters.
Reynolds says the current headquarters is collaborative for employees and customers. Ultimately, the company wants the adjacent property to be very similar in that regard.
"It’s really undecided yet what those plans might be - if it will be an entirely new space or a repurpose of, but we’re working through those plans currently," Reynolds said.
Kent Corporation is working with architects to decide the structural future of the old hotel.
"Starting from ground up has some advantages and we would consider that from a space standpoint," Reynolds said.
In the meantime, Muscatine's police and fire departments are using the vacant building to conduct training.
"We are always really pleased to partner with local law enforcement in any way," Reynolds said.
Kent is celebrating its 90 year anniversary.
"We're really a great Iowa story - third and fourth generation family ownership and leadership and we're thriving," Reynolds said.