Goodwill Seeks $7M for Vegetable Oil Packaging Plant

The plant would employ dozens of people with disabilities.

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CORALVILLE, Iowa (AP) — Goodwill of the Heartland plans to raise $7.6 million to open a vegetable oil packaging plant in eastern Iowa and employ dozens of people with disabilities.

Jessica Schamberger, the organization's vice president for operations, presented the proposal to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported . The plan calls for creating 40 jobs in Coralville, and three-fourths of the positions would be reserved for people with disabilities. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture selected Heartland Goodwill Enterprises last year to package soy-based oil through the federal AbilityOne program. The organization was set up to administer AbilityOne contracts for Goodwill of the Heartlands, according to Schamberger. 

The AbilityOne program provides employment to individuals who are blind or have disabilities. To qualify for a contract, 75 percent of the new facility's employees must be workers with disabilities. 

Schamberger also requested two $50,000 grants from the board to help fund the project, which will ship packaged oil for distribution to more than 70 counties through the World Food Program. 

"From our perspective, there are three benefits that come from a project like this," said Schamberger. "We would be packaging a product that's produced here in the state of Iowa, creating jobs for people with disabilities, and we would also be supporting international populations who are in need." 

She said the vegetable oil will be sent to countries like Syria, Myanmar and Yemen. 

Schamberger said a next step is to negotiate a sale price for the packaged oil with the USDA. The price could be announced by March. 

If the price negotiation and the start-up funding of $7.6 million is reached, then the facility could be in operation by late 2018 or early 2019, according to Schamberger. The project won't move forward if these measures aren't met.