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Monday, May 2, 2016

North American Co-Pack up and running in Le Mars

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Starting Nov. 2, North American Co-Pack employees were preparing a facility in Le Mars to host a ready-to-eat sandwich plant. Production began in early December and now truckloads of product are being shipped from the plant around the nation. Wes Cowins is the Le Mars plant's manager.
Five sandwiches every four seconds.

That's the rate North American Co-Pack's new plant in Le Mars is pumping out ready-to-eat sandwiches to be sold across the nation.

And plant manager Wes Cowins has plans to make production even faster.

Wes Cowins
The plant began operations Dec. 10, producing pre-packaged sandwiches for companies around the U.S.

"Things are going good," said Bret Peterson, chief financial officer for North American Co-Pack. "We've got things in place, got the equipment we need, so things are moving along good."

The Le Mars facility is Denver, Colo.-based company's first plant.

Cowins said the workers in the plant are pushing forward.

"We're looking to get our second order put out by the end of this week," he said, explaining that these orders are full truckloads of product.

Currently, the plant is producing a round turkey and cheese sandwich, put together and packaged in assembly-line style, he said.

North American Co-Pack hired about 25 people to start the work in December, many from Le Mars.

"We also brought in some extras for some second shift on a temporary basis for some initial work we had to get out," Peterson said. "We had some orders waiting for us, some pressure on us to get those things out the door."

Production, he said, would be fairly low key through the holidays.

"Then we'll hit things heavy right at the first of the year," Peterson said.

He said he anticipates North American Co-Pack will hire more people in the first quarter of 2011.

"It will probably depend on timing and volume we need," he said.

Cowins said it has been a busy two months.

"We took possession of the building Nov. 2, so it's kind of a whirlwind ride," he said.

The plant is housed in a 17,000 square foot facility leased from Nor-Am Cold Storage at 700 Prospect St. in Le Mars. Other than a little paint and touch up work, nothing major needed to be done to the building, Peterson said.

"We had to do some general clean up and maintenance," he said. "The plant was in pretty good condition and pretty much ready for use."

Cowins said the company also had to line up vendors for packaging supplies and other items, hire staff and train personnel in that time.

Cowins, who moved to Le Mars from Omaha, Neb., with his wife Michele and 7-year-old son, is enjoying his work at the plant so far.

"I've always been looking for an opportunity to run my own facility," he said. "Meat packing is kind of in my blood; food business is in my blood."

He explained his father has been in the industry for more than 30 years.

"I actually got a degree in aviation, and here I am in the food industry," Cowins said with a grin.

He explained that, prior to college, he'd done some industrial engineering work at a packing plant.

When the North American Co-Pack job became available, he decided to get back into it.

And he's pleased as to where the Le Mars plant is, with nearly one month of operations under its belt.

"We're glad to be up and running," Cowins said. "There is still a lot of work to do, but we hope to progress and grow."

Peterson shared a similar view.

"We're pleased with the support we've received from the community and the city and so forth," Peterson said. "We're very happy to be located in Le Mars."

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