WAHOO -- Construction of the new $12 million Omaha Steel Castings Co., plant on the northeast edge of Wahoo is under way, but it may be a while until city officials know how many jobs it will bring to the community.
The 106-year-old company plans to gradually move its operations and about 200 employees from its current plant near 46th and Farnam streets in Omaha as early as next spring, general manager John Baines said.
"We know some people won't want to drive that far and cannot afford it," said Baines, adding that the company plans to help employees with transportation if distance is a problem. The average wage in the metal foundry is about $14 per hour, he said.
Baines said it is too early to say how many people will be hired from Wahoo. He said the company plans to open part of the 130,000-square-foot plant next spring and complete the project in 2014. The Omaha plant will remain in operation until the entire plant is relocated to Wahoo.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Wednesday to recognize individuals, companies and government officials who helped make the project a reality after more than three years of effort.
Doug Watts, executive director of the Wahoo Chamber and Economic Development, estimated that eventually half of the company's workforce could come from the area.
Citing the company's projected $30 million in sales this year, Watts said the company could bring new businesses into Wahoo and help expand existing ones. Wahoo and Saunders County also will be getting more tax dollars.
"Manufacturing has a big multiplier effect," said Watts, adding that two to three such businesses already have been identified.
Gov. Dave Heineman, a native son, said the company will get a great workforce and the city will get a great corporate citizen.
"Nebraska is on the move because of companies like Omaha Steel Castings," the governor told about 100 people attending the ceremony.
The company bought 17 acres of farm ground from Mike and Denise Lawver and began site preparations in late March by hauling in more than 8,000 dump trucks of soil. Foundation work is under way.
Phil Teggart, president and CEO, said the company decided to leave Omaha because the city did not present any opportunities that would allow the company to grow.
Teggart said the company is working with local businesses such as general contractor Lacey Construction Inc. to build the project and plan to work with more.
"We want to support the community," he said. "We want long-term partnerships."
Teggart said the project would not have been possible without a $6.5 million loan from Omaha State Bank, a $5.4 million loan from the Nebraska Economic Development Corp. and tax-increment financing from the city of Wahoo.
The NEDCO loan is guaranteed by the Small Business Administration and financed through surety bonds. The loan is the second-largest made by NEDCO and the SBA in the nation this year, said Patricia Brown-Dixon, administrator for SBA Region 7 in Kansas City, Mo.