USA - New Foundry estimated to cost more than $100 million

Building projects estimated to cost more than $100 million are rare.

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Saturday morning’s groundbreaking for A.Y. McDonald Manufacturing Co.’s brass foundry was therefore a once-in-a-generation event, 40 years after the company built the foundry on Chavenelle Road in Dubuque that the new project will replace.

The brass foundry, which will be built on Old Highway Road between Dickeyville and Kieler, is projected to open in summer 2026.

CEO Rob McDonald called the project “the most important project in the 167-year history of A.Y. McDonald. … We’re not running [the company] for the nest year, we’re not running the company for the next decade; we’re running it for forever.”

The foundry, he said, is a “project to cement our forever status.” He did not disclose the price of the project but said it was “nine figures.”

New foundry team director Andy Shea said the new foundry, which he called “Wisconsin’s version of the Field of Dreams,” will provide “probably 90 percent more productivity with the same number of people.”

McDonald said out of the company’s 450 employees, the foundry workers would transfer to the new foundry, but the other Dubuque employees would remain at the current offices.

Shea said the project would move 1.3 million cubic yards of dirt, in addition to constructing one road and reconstructing another road. The foundry will be as tall as Kieler’s water tower, and will have its own electrical substation.

“We will have an entrance so good, people will want to come to work on their day off,” he said.

“Foundries are hot, dangerous, dirty and loud,” said A.Y. McDonald president Chad Huntington, adding that the company’s goal is to make its new foundry “safer, cleaner, cooler and quieter.”

Huntington described the current foundry as like “a house built in the ‘70s or the ‘80s,” whereas the new concept will be the equivalent of “an open-concept ranch.”

Executive vice president and chief strategy officer Scott Knapp said the Chavenelle Road foundry was built 40 years ago in part because the previous foundry site became part of a road project.

Knapp said A.Y. McDonald’s management of the time took “the biggest risk of their working careers” in deciding to build the current foundry. “Today is a celebration of all of us and what we’ve accomplished as the A.Y. McDonald family.”

A.Y. McDonald board member Jean McDonald, who taught at Holy Ghost School in Dickeyville when the current brass foundry was first operating, noted that the company purchased a warehouse in Kieler, which has “a lot to do with why we’re here today” for the “foundry of the future,” a project she called “a win–win for Dickeyville and A.Y. McDonald.”

Board member Jeffrey Bullock, the president of the University of Dubuque, quoted from the Bible’s Letter to the Hebrews about being “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” — in Saturday’s case, previous generations of A.Y. McDonald employees.

“At some level we are surrounded by all of those who have gone before us and today are here in ways that we don’t understand until we see them,” he said.

Bullock said the company’s “priorities are in the right order” and “always begin and end with people.”

A.Y. McDonald also has plants in Albia, Iowa, and Elizabethton, Tenn.