Government

Cargill CEO predicts growth in Cedar Rapids, doesn't address rail yard controversy

Economic Alliance Executive Director Doug Neumann and Economic Alliance Board Vice Chair and Vice President of Finance S
Economic Alliance Executive Director Doug Neumann and Economic Alliance Board Vice Chair and Vice President of Finance Shared Services at Collins Aerospace, Tatum Buse lead a discussion with Cargill CEO David MacLennan during the Economic Alliance annual meeting at the DoubleTree Cedar Rapids Convention Center in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The future of Cargill in Cedar Rapids is one of growth, Cargill Chief Executive Officer David MacLennan told attendees Wednesday at an annual luncheon for business leaders.

MacLennan pointed to Cargill’s investment in its corn milling plant and Diamond V animal nutrition plant as evidence.

He said the privately held, global agriprocessor plans to invest $100 million in Diamond V, which Cargill acquired in 2018 for an undisclosed price, and this month completed a $29.1 million plant expansion on 60th Avenue SW. Cargill also has invested $25 million in its Cedar Rapids corn milling plant, he said.

“The fact is, the future of Cargill in Cedar Rapids is one of growth,” MacLennan said at the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance event. “We’re here to stay ... and we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the way that you support us and welcome us.”

The Gazette also has reported on Cargill’s $38 million investment in its soy plant and plans for a $6.5 million rail yard to support corn products.

The Cedar Rapids market, with at least four plants, represents one of the larger footprints of the multibillion-dollar corporation.

Gov. Kim Reynolds introduced MacLennan and also highlighted parts of the Condition of the State address she made to lawmakers earlier this month —— touching on plans to invest $100 million in water quality and conservation initiatives.

In recent months, Cargill has been at the center of a bitter local dispute over its plans for a 12 track, 200 car rail yard in the blue-collar Rompot neighborhood and near the Prairie Park Fishery, underscored by a few protesters who gathered outside the event.

“I want to make our presence known to the CEO that our community came out and we are still fighting,” said Dorothy Hogg, who lives near the rail yard site. “We are asking for a pause to have conversations with users of the nature trail and neighbors.”

Other demonstrators chided Cargill on its environmental record.

The Cedar Rapids City Council signed off on the rail yard plan last month. Although a lawsuit challenging the vote looms, work is expected to begin in the coming weeks.

MacLennan did not address the rail yard controversy and, with the help of assistants, dodged attempts by a reporter to ask him about it after his public comments.

MacLennan said as the world population grows and people want “protein that is fed by Iowa products,” it is a promising outlook for food producing plants like the ones in Cedar Rapids.

Farmers and agriculture industry are “at the heart of the action in the future,” he said.

“In terms of micro ingredients, digestive health, things like macrobiotics, microbiotics that’s going to be the future of our company, and the future of the way the world consumes food,” he said.

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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