NORTH SIOUX CITY -- A pet food maker has broken ground on what appears to be a major expansion of its plant here.
The North Sioux City Planning Commission recently approved Royal Canin USA's building permit for a 8,000-square-foot wastewater pre-treatment facility, with an estimated cost of more than $5 million. Heavy equipment has started moving dirt at the building site, at the northwest corner of Freedom Drive and Military Road.
Royal Canin's existing 130,000-square-foot plant is at the other end of Freedom Drive at 630 N. Derby Lane. The company controls all the property lying north of Freedom Drive between the factory and the treatment facility site, raising speculation that more new construction could be on the way.
"We are elated that Royal Canin USA has chosen to make such a significant investment in our community," North Sioux City Economic Development Corp. executive director Kory Menken said in a statement.
Company officials have not released specific details about the expansion, but Menken called the growth "very promising."
Spokespersons for Royal Canin and its privately held parent company, Mars Inc., did not return the Journal's calls for comment.
McLean, Va.-based Mars, which makes such well-known consumer products as M&Ms candy, Wrigley's chewing gum, Whiskas cat food and Uncle Ben's rice, acquired the North Sioux City plant from Menu Foods for $26.3 million in October 2007. A year ago, Mars officially changed the plant name from Mars Petcare to Royal Canin.
Royal Canin, founded by a veterinary surgeon in a French village in 1967, specializes in premium brands specially formulated for the dietary needs of specific breeds of dogs and cats. The products, which also geared toward the age and size of animals, are distributed primarily through veterinarians' offices, breeders and specialty retailers such as PetSmart and PetCo.
The North Sioux City plant is now the sole production site for Royal Canin's domestically sold wet dog and cat foods, while all its domestic dry foods are made in Rolla, Mo.
Royal Canin, which has its U.S. headquarters in the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles, Mo., employs about 600 nationally, and plans to hire another 100 U.S. workers this year, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
At last count, employment at the North Sioux City plant was at around 150.