A $50 million animal care facility that would be about the size of a football field may be built in Fort Dodge by Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc., company leaders revealed Wednesday.
A final decision on the facility will be made by the end of this year or early next year, according to Rene Ward, the company's associate director of public relations and internal communications.
"Our hope and our desire is to put the facility there," she said.
"It is Boehringer Ingelheim's choice to be in Fort Dodge," she added. "It just needs to make business sense and be feasible."
Ward said additional employees would be hired if the facility is built, but added that the number of potential new workers isn't available yet.
She said the new building would be located on the company's main campus at 800 Fifth St. N.W. She said it would house animals used in research and development.
Albrecht Kissel, the president and chief executive officer of the company, visited Fort Dodge to inform local workers of the proposal.
''The largest single investment - and I expect it to be more than $50 million - that BI animal health will make worldwide over the next years will be for the new animal facility that will support product release and new vaccine research and development," he said in a written statement.
''Our goal is to build this state-of-the-art facility here in Fort Dodge,'' he added.
A $50 million investment would be one of the largest recent outlays on a single project in the community in recent years. The proposed Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica expenditure would be exceeded only by those of CJ Bio America ($323 million), Tate & Lyle ($260 million) and Cargill ($134 million).
The announcement of a potential major new facility comes at a time of transition for the company, which is expanding its vaccine research locally while ending its Fort Dodge packaging and labeling operation.
Local officials welcomed word of the possible expansion.
"It's very consistent with what we've been told from early on, which is that they want to continue to grow and have a major presence here," said Dennis Plautz, the chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.
Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich said the potential project shows the value of all the planning done in the community in the past six years, starting with the Envision 2030 strategic plan.
"I think it's an exciting time in Fort Dodge," he said. "We're starting to see the fruits of all that planning work and creating an atmosphere of positive development."
Webster County Supervisor Keith Dencklau said the community must now follow through on those plans.
"It looks like we need to show them we're going forward with all our plans in order to keep this thing coming this way," he said. "They can see Fort Dodge has a vision. They're putting their trust in us."
Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc., headquartered in Germany, came to the city in 2009 when it bought many of the Fort Dodge Animal Health assets from Pfizer Inc. and Wyeth.
The following year, the company announced a planned $17.6 million investment in its Fort Dodge facilities. It includes three new vaccine research buildings, new manufacturing equipment and a complete renovation of the existing vaccine research area. The vaccine buildings haven't been constructed yet, but the company has done some renovations and purchased new equipment.
That project would create 78 new jobs.
However, up to 100 company employees may lose their jobs in 2014 when the company closes its plant on Riverside Drive.
Another 45 jobs will be lost in mid-2014 when the packaging and labeling operation is moved from Fort Dodge to St. Joseph, Mo.