PLATTSMOUTH, Nebraska — Vireo Systems made its initial splash in Nebraska about 15 years ago with a few employees and a single commercial bay in this town’s FourMile Industrial Park.
Within five years, the Tennessee-based company that develops healthy products for people and pets expanded onto a nearby field to build its own production facility.
Vireo’s latest growth now comes in a $16.6 million campus addition that one might say puts the company and this community of about 6,500 residents on the world map of energy supplements.
The structure is said to be the first creatine manufacturing plant in the U.S. — home to Vireo’s patented CON-CRET muscle-builder.
“We’re pretty excited,” said Plattsmouth Mayor Paul Lambert. “They started with one bay in a strip mall, went to two, then three, then built their smaller building, then this big expansion.”
More growth in sight
Yet another facility is to begin construction in the next few months, Vireo’s CEO, Mark Faulkner, told the Nebraska Examiner. He said that would bring the total local manufacturing space to more than 70,000 square feet.
Boosted by a recent $1 million federal award distributed by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Vireo has helped keep the economic engine humming in this Cass County seat south of Omaha, which is still recovering from historic 2019 floods, said Plattsmouth City Administrator Emily Bausch.
Vireo’s latest expansion is expected to create 200 new jobs in coming years and $174 million in annual economic impact, company officials say. Currently the company employs about 50 local workers.
Economic impact and workforce demand numbers weren’t available for the next growth phase. A spokesperson said that future manufacturing structure is to focus on holistic feminine hygiene products.
New job expectations have stimulated activity in areas such as housing, said Bausch and Lambert.
In progress, for example, is a “hallmark project” renovating the old high school near Eighth and Main Streets into 40 units of workforce rental housing. Bausch said the $10.3 million conversion, funded in large part by low-income housing tax credits, is particularly meaningful for area families as it preserves a structure steeped in nostalgic memories.
“Folks look at that building and say, ‘I went to sixth grade there. I did this in science class.’ “
Resiliency in wake of flooding
Next to the school, the former Blue Devil Stadium site is to become a mixed-use residential and commercial townhouse-style development.
Another apartment project developing near U.S. Highway 75 and First Avenue is among a few assisted by public tax-increment financing, a statewide tool that allows future property tax revenue generated on new development to go toward paying eligible redevelopment costs for up to 20 years.
“When we see some of these projects happening … despite that we’re still recovering from one of the biggest disasters, it shows the resiliency of our community,” Bausch said.
Also in progress, she said, is some $100 million in public infrastructure projects responding to the 2019 flood devastation that, among other damage, knocked out both the city’s water and sewage plants.
Faulkner said his company chose Plattsmouth for expansion in large part because of support from the mayor and his team and their help in finding resources and programs to accelerate the company’s growth.
The City of Plattsmouth provided Vireo with land. Other city and state incentives have included a $75,000 forgivable loan based on job creation and $28,000 in job-training assistance to prepare nutraceutical production technicians.
The more recent $1 million award from the state came from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s community development block grant program. The funding helped pay for a creatine reactor.
Previously, Faulkner said, Vireo had to import creatine from overseas and run it through processes locally to ensure it met brand expectations. By building the Plattsmouth plant, he said, the company can better control quality, supply chain and costs.
It shows the resiliency of our community.– Emily Bausch, Plattsmouth city administrator
He said the Plattsmouth plant comes as Vireo’s CON-CRET brand (a name that harkens to concentrated creatine) is seeing increased distribution and availability in Walmart stores nationwide.
Muscle, brain, sexual wellness
Spanning about 32,000 square feet, the new facility is adjacent to the company’s existing 10,000-square-foot production plant on its 10-acre campus west of U.S. Highway 75 on Wiles Road.
CEO Faulkner joined local officials last week in Plattsmouth for a ceremony marking the upcoming opening of the plant once final pieces of equipment arrive.
“Vireo is investing in this plant and in our CON-CRET brand because concentrated creatine is arguably the most important supplement a person can take to support their overall health and fitness,” Faulkner said. “Being the first and only domestically made creatine aligns with our mission to provide innovative and science-backed products that everybody needs for health and wellness.”
Creatine is an amino acid found naturally in the body’s muscles, in the brain and in some foods. Supplementing creatine, Vireo says, can help improve athletic performance and improves energy, immunity, sexual wellness and brain function.
‘Hand in glove’
Nebraska’s allure for the company in part is rooted in Vireo’s collaboration with the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The medical center’s experts have played a key role on Vireo’s scientific advisory board, which has driven much of the company’s progress, products and patents.
Faulkner has said that it was a UNMC contact that put him in touch originally with Nebraska economic development officials.
Mayor Lambert said he’s eager for continued job creation, which he said goes “hand in glove” with the new housing options that will enable workers to live in the community rather than commute from Omaha and other cities.
“We want them close to their work, in our community,” the mayor said. “It works out very well, and of course it’s also good for the retail community in Plattsmouth.”
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