Jackson-based organic pet food supplier planning $100 million expansion

Monday, March 30, 2009

Miss Autumn's Barkery is planning a $100 million expansion into a portion of the 400-acre Southeast Missouri State University Technology Park that the business' owner said could bring between 100 and 200 jobs to the area.

Construction of the facility for the Jackson-based organic pet food supplier is expected to begin by the end of the year or early 2010, said Victoria McDowell, founder of the business. However, that depends on McDowell's success in getting stimulus funding.

"We're still in the early stages of this, and we still have a lot of details to work out," McDowell said. "The plant will create a facility using state-of-the-art, 21st-century technology that helps the planet and will also provide jobs. With the economy the way it is, Cape Girardeau and Jackson need manufacturing jobs."

Still in the preliminary stages, the plant would employ workers in occupations such as accounting, engineering, advertising and marketing. McDowell said analysis of labor studies would be conducted and salaries would be set once those survey results are complete.

The plant would also incorporate the use of renewable energy and equipment that recycles water. McDowell said the green features in the plant reflect the mission of the company and makes the project a leading candidate for stimulus funding.

Mitch Robinson, executive director of Cape Girardeau Area Magnet, said that although thousands of applications have been submitted to receive stimulus funds, the proposal is appealing for a number of reasons. He said as the process moves forward, Magnet would coordinate with local and state government in labor recruitment and getting a site.

"There's an incentive of educational opportunities with the tie-in of students and the green aspect that could land the stimulus money," Robinson said.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson said he wrote a letter of support on McDowell's behalf to Gov. Jay Nixon and said the city may provide some incentives, though it is not known what those would be.

McDowell said the new facility would also give a boost to the mostly local suppliers she purchases her ingredients from, including Fruitland American Meat, which provides the buffalo found in some of the company's dog food.

Founded in 2006, Miss Autumn's Barkery makes dog foods and snacks, which are produced from all-natural, all-organic ingredients such as buffalo, turkey, free range eggs, sweet potatoes and whole-wheat flour. All dog food is placed in glass jars and is sold to retailers such as Schnucks.

"What we sell is what people can eat," McDowell said. "Organic costs more than regular dog food but your pet will be more healthy."

Dennis Roedemeier, executive director of the Missouri Research Corp. at Southeast, said the university would help McDowell with a marketing strategy and getting technology. While the unemployment rate is high and businesses are closing, Roedemeier said now is the time to expand.

"A lot of folks will say to stay back and be safe," Roedemeier said. "But when you are going to make your move in this market is when the larger and intermediate firms retreat.

"You then gain territory and grow faster because you're smaller," he said. "When the market catches up, the larger and intermediate companies will re-enter. And they'll see that you took a couple of hills while they were out."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

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1105 Saddlebrooke Ridge, Jackson, MO

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