Top officials for the union representing workers at Kraft Heinz say the plant's Davenport operation is having difficulty finding enough workers, and they blame the initial announcement in 2015 that the company would only guarantee retaining 475 employees as part of the deal for state and local incentives.

Jerry Messer, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 431, said the company needs to hire about 200 people by April.

"We need new bodies," he said this week.

Kraft announced late last year that it would retain 700 full-time hourly workers and 45 salaried employees, significantly more than the 475 it initially guaranteed.

Messer, though, says too many people are worried any new hiring would only be for temporary positions. And he says he believes that worry stems from the initial jobs figures, which came out in late 2015, when Kraft Heinz announced it was replacing its Davenport plant with a new facility at the Eastern Iowa Industrial Center.

"We're trying to get the word out that these aren't temporary jobs," Messer said.

Union officials say the jobs will come with attractive pay and benefits.

A Kraft spokesperson would not confirm that it is hiring 200 people. A representative for the company, Lynne Galia, said in an email Wednesday, "We’re always evaluating our operational needs and currently have openings that we are actively working to fill. We’ll continue to hire until we meet those needs."

The company is working with Iowa Works of Eastern Iowa on an all-day recruiting event on Feb. 13.

A flyer for the event, which will go from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Iowa Works office at 902 West Kimberly Road, Suite 51, says the company is hiring for 2nd and 3rd shift production line positions.

"I do know they’re planning to fill quite a number of positions," said Paula Arends, workforce innovation director for Iowa Works and Eastern Iowa Community College.

Currently, the company is operating at both its plant on Rockingham Road and at the Eastern Iowa Industrial Center.

In December, the company said it was employing 888 hourly employees.

The UFCW said this week the company now is employing about 990 hourly workers, which includes temporary employees.

At the time the incentives were approved in late 2015, there was criticism that the state was plowing money into a business that was cutting hundreds of jobs.

In early 2015, the company reported 1,400 people worked at the Davenport operation.

The state's incentives included $1.75 million in tax credits and a $3 million forgivable loan to demolish the existing facility. The city also approved incentives.

Defenders of the incentives said that even if there were to be fewer jobs, the investment was worthwhile if it prevented the Davenport operation from closing entirely.

Kraft Heinz's changes here were announced at the same time the company said it was closing seven plants and eliminating 2,600 jobs at other locations in the North America.

Local economic development officials have said that they are hopeful that Kraft Heinz will eventually expand operations at the new facility.