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Pet food maker plans huge new Lincoln facility
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Pet food maker plans huge new Lincoln facility

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Instinct

Instinct, a manufacturer of raw pet food, is planning a 250,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on land it owns at Southwest 32nd and West O streets. The company already has two smaller buildings at the site, including this one at 309 S.W. 32nd St.

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A company that makes raw pet food is planning a massive project to consolidate its manufacturing and distribution operations in Lincoln.

Instinct, which used to be known as Nature’s Variety, is planning a $180 million expansion and consolidation of its operations at a site at roughly Southwest 32nd and West O streets.

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The company already operates a 24,000-square-foot freeze-drying facility and a 20,000-square-foot raw food processing center on the site, both of which were built within the past four years as part of an earlier redevelopment plan that was approved in 2017.

Instinct said then that future expansion was likely at the site, and now it is planning to build a 250,000-square-foot production facility on nearly 6 acres, which would allow it to close existing production facilities at 6501 Cornhusker Highway and 6200 N. 56th St. and consolidate all of its Lincoln operations at one location.

Pet food maker expansion

A spokesman for the St. Louis-based company declined to comment on the plans, which are detailed in a redevelopment proposal submitted last week to the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Department.

According to that document, Instinct is seeking tax-increment financing for the project, and the city estimates it would qualify for a little more than $3.4 million.

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Tax-increment financing, or TIF, is a mechanism that allows developers to use the increased future property taxes a project generates to pay for certain upfront costs that have a public benefit. The project qualifies for TIF because most of West O Street has been designated as a blighted area.

The documents also show that Instinct plans to more than double its employment in Lincoln as part of the project, adding about 120 employees while retaining its existing staff of about 100 people.

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The proposal is scheduled for its first hearing in front of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Planning Commission on Oct. 27. It's unclear when construction would start.

The Instinct project is one of several large manufacturing expansions to be announced locally over the past year. Among them: Kawasaki Motors Manufacturing's announcement of a $200 million expansion of its northwest Lincoln plant over the next 18 months that will create an additional 550 jobs, and Monolith's announcement last month that it will hire 200 new employees as part of a $1 billion-plus expansion of its operations near Hallam.

Manufacturing is booming in Nebraska, with the Department of Labor recently reporting that the state has added nearly 4,500 manufacturing jobs over the past year, including 600 in the Lincoln area.

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Eric Thompson, an economist and director of the Bureau of Business Research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said the booming economy is leading to more consumer demand, "which creates expanding markets for businesses manufacturing consumer products."

Creighton economist Ernie Goss agreed, saying consumer spending is strong, especially for pet-related products, in large part due to federal stimulus that has put more money into people's pockets.

But Goss also warned that labor shortages and supply bottlenecks are threatening to slow down the industry. He said that while Creighton's monthly survey of manufacturers in Nebraska and eight other states indicate that growth continues, the survey's manufacturing confidence index for September dropped to its lowest level since March 2020.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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