Athens, Georgia-based food ingredient maker IsoAge Technologies LLC made a switch in its manufacturing processes, and Springfield is the new sole site for the operations.
Robert Brooks, senior vice president of technical and regulatory, said the privately owned IsoAge in the last couple weeks transitioned its manufacturing center in the Queen City to full capacity. The change started in October 2018 at 2829 S. Scenic Ave., where IsoAge owns a 90,000-square-foot plant, Brooks said, noting manufacturing in earnest started at the first of the year. In March 2018, the company first entered Springfield, where the majority of its 11 employees now work.
IsoAge, he said, manufactures all-natural ingredients that “enhance the shelf life and the eating qualities of different foods,” mostly meat and poultry in the food, dairy and pet food industries.
“We were working with some contract manufacturing in the past, and we’ve grown the company to the point where we felt it was best to take control of our own manufacturing process,” Brooks said, noting contract work with an undisclosed St. Louis manufacturer recently ended. “We’ve been fortunate. It’s been a very uneventful startup.”
The expansion resulted in the addition of seven new employees, with plans to add another soon, said Brooks, who had been the sole employee in Springfield prior to the manufacturing change. He previously oversaw the company’s contract manufacturing.
“Companywide, we’re pretty lean and small,” he said of the company’s 11-employee count, which includes the new additions in Springfield.
The company’s corporate offices and research and development operations are located in Athens, he said, and there’s no plans to move them to Springfield.
IsoAge is using all but approximately 8,000 square feet of the Springfield facility, he said. The remainder is leased for undisclosed terms as office space to Memphis, Tennessee-based auto parts supplier Highline Aftermarket LLC. Keltner Distribution LLC was an occupant of the building prior to IsoAge’s arrival and it now operates as a distributor brand under the Highline corporate umbrella, according to Highline’s company website.
He said IsoAge has experienced double-digit revenue growth since its 2008 founding, declining to disclose revenue figures. Rick Hull, currently president and CEO, and Romeo Toledo, who is chief technical officer, but now serves in more of a consulting role, started the company, Brooks said.
Brooks said many of IsoAge’s customers are in the meat and poultry industry, but declined to disclose any of their names.
“We’re in a very competitive space,” he said, also declining to list company competitors. He noted the natural ingredients manufacturing footprint is ever-changing and on an international scale.
An international connection was made locally earlier this year when longtime Springfield-based pet food ingredient provider American Dehydrated Foods and International Dehydrated Foods signed an agreement to sell to Germany-based Symrise AG for $900 million. Like IsoAge, ADF/IDF develops and supplies ingredients to manufacturers in the pet food industry.
“I don’t look at others as competitors,” Brooks said. “I look at taking care of the business in front of me and solving problems for clients. The rest takes care of itself.”
Among IsoAge’s products, which are all vinegar- or fruit juice-based natural ingredients, are FlavoSet, IsoSaveur and MOstatin.
The company’s products contribute to a growing ingredients industry.
According to a September 2018 Zion Market Research report, the global specialty food ingredients market was valued around $79.8 billion in 2017 and it’s expected to reach $121.6 billion in 2024 – an annual growth rate of 6.2% between 2018 and 2024.
Although Brooks is a Springfield resident, IsoAge expanding the operation and staying in town wasn’t a sure thing.
Efforts of the Springfield Partnership for Economic Development helped secure the company’s expansion commitment, he said. The partnership comprises the city of Springfield, City Utilities, Greene County, the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce and its economic development arm, Springfield Business Development Corp.
Danny Perches, the chamber’s project manager for economic development, said initial talks with IsoAge started March 2018, when the potential for an expansion was discussed with Springfield officials.
Two other states, Illinois and Kansas, also were being considered.
“Given the competitive nature of this project, particularly that it involved other states, that response time was critical,” Perches said.
Brooks admitted he had a slightly selfish reason for hoping Springfield would be successful in its bid, as he wanted to cut down on his work travel. That included visits to customers and overseeing contract-manufacturing work in St. Louis.
“We worked with the chamber and guys there did a great job of putting together a very enticing package for us to call Springfield home,” he said.
Perches said IsoAge took advantage of the city’s enhanced enterprise zone program, which grants property tax abatement to businesses that locate or expand within designated areas. Sarah Kerner, the city’s economic development director, said IsoAge qualified for 50% reduction on property taxes for next 10 years.
The company also benefitted from the Missouri Works job creation program, offered through the DED, which he said incentivizes new jobs coming to the state.
The manufacturing plant sits on 14 acres, Brooks said, with an undeveloped lot on the property’s backside allowing room for expansion.
“It’s not on the immediate radar; it’s more of a long-term goal,” he said.
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