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Grassley tours bag manufacturing plant in Sibley

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tours TC Transcontinental in Sibley, Iowa with Ray Gruis, production manager. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)1 / 6
(Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)2 / 6
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tours TC Transcontinental in Sibley, Iowa with Ray Gruis, production manager. (Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)3 / 6
(Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)4 / 6
(Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)5 / 6
(Karl Evers-Hillstrom / The Globe)6 / 6

SIBLEY, Iowa — U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley on Thursday toured TC Transcontinental, a Sibley-based, 254,828 square-foot packaging manufacturing plant.

The plant, formerly known as Coveris, was purchased May 1 by Canadian printing and packaging company Transcontinental. Right away, it’s clear the purchase was made recently, as employees still wear Coveris shirts and the plant still exhibits orange Coveris signs.

Inside, the company’s 166 employees produce bags for 225 clients, including Kingsford, Uncle Ben’s and Papa Murphy’s. The plant can pump out 850,000 bags every day. Around 300,000 of those are microwavable popcorn bags, which the company — then Chase Bag Co. — “pretty much invented” in the early 1980s.

“We make a lot of popcorn bags in this plant,” said Ray Gruis, production manager, said. “Millions and millions of them, and they go all over the world … China, Korea, Australia, all over Europe and Canada.”

So far, the change in ownership has not made an impact on the plant.

“It’s going to be a year before we really see anything,” Grius said. “But it’s a big purchase for the people who bought us. They were focused on newspapers and magazines, so this is a way to supplement their income. They’re trying to find ways to stay very active in business.”

Grassley was taken through the plant, where he and his staff were shown the complex processes used to build bags complete with company logos.

Speaking after the tour, Grassley noted that although the Iowa economy is doing well, most companies struggle to find workers.

“Every place I go they say they can't hire, it’s a shortage of labor,” he said.”If you can get the labor, the productivity would be higher.”

Grius agreed that hiring is difficult, and said he believed there wasn’t just a shortage of labor, but a shortage of people who want to work.