In a city that’s had its fair share of industrial buildings go empty in recent years, having a regional company put unused property back into service is a breath of fresh air.
The 57,00-square-foot building at Seventh and Park streets, which once housed a Husqvarna factory but for years has been mostly vacant, is now being converted to accommodate a major expansion of Diller-based C & C Processing. More than 2/3 of the building is being constructed into production space for jerky and other meat snacks made for nationwide customers.
C & C co-owner Chad Lottman said they took possession of the building in late 2015, worked through the winter and plan to have the facility up and running by mid-April.
“We’ve got a little under two busy months to get it finished up,” Lottman said.
The vast, empty interior of the building is being filled by blocks of white, insulated wall paneling, which will house freezers, coolers and smokehouse ovens in separate rectangular rooms. A production area connected to all the rooms will be where the raw meat is ground, sliced, marinated, seasoned and shaped for various types of jerky. The walls need to be insulated because the entire area will be kept at 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The space is still under construction. No equipment has been moved in yet — most of it will be arriving only a few weeks before being put to use. In fact, some of it is still being made. Lottman said much of the equipment they need isn’t even made in the U.S.
“It’s equipment that has to be shipped from Germany, or whatever the case,” he said. “A lot of the standard equipment all comes from overseas.”
C & C has a smaller production facility in Diller where Lottman said they produce 6,000-10,000 pounds of jerky per day. Demand from the companies for which the jerky is produced has exceeded that supply, however.
Lottman said the Beatrice facility will start with a production volume similar to Diller, with the potential to more than double. The capacity of the facility will actually be four to five times more than what Diller is capable of, Lottman siad. He said the Diller production location will also continue to operate.
Lottman expects 25 to 30 employees to be working at Beatrice, potentially adding another 10 to 20 if production keeps growing.
Construction on the Beatrice location was made possible in part by a $400,000 loan from the city. The loan was from LB840 funds, which are earmarked for economic development.
Lottman said without the loan, the new facility wouldn’t have happened.
“We needed the city loan to help with the equity, to secure the bank,” Lottman said. “At that point it was either the project would happen or it would not happen. … By the time the city made their decision, I had to give my customer a ‘Yes, we will start this production facility,’ or ‘No, I have to go back to the drawing board to get my financing.’”
Grant Jones, chairman of the Citizens Advisory Review Committee that reviews LB840 applications, gave the C & C application a glowing recommendation when it came before the City Council last November. He said it was one of the best applications the committee has seen in a while.
“They knew their business very well, had finances in order, had a plan for expansion and for the market,” Jones explained. “They knew their tech, labor, the buildout of the property, vendors, and the demand for their product.”
Jones said there are certain benchmarks the committee looks for while evaluating every loan application. With C & C, he said there wasn’t even a question.
“It was a no-brainer because everything was put together; it was phenomenal,” he said. “The fact that it’s a local business expanding makes it even better. … By all indications they’ll only continue to grow in the next 3-5 years.”
While applying for the loan, C & C also met with the NGage economic development group, which helps new businesses in the process of moving and expanding in Gage County.
NGage Executive Director Glennis McClure said it’s wonderful to have C & C investing in the Beatrice community. “They’ve done very well, they’ve grown their business and this is another step in their growth,” McClure said. “It’s wonderful to have young entrepreneurs like them that keep pressing on. They have been very progressive and it’s great to have them in Beatrice and in Gage County.”