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Iowa Feeds the World... Dessert

It’s no secret that Iowa dominates in the global agriculture department, owning the number one position in corn, soybean, egg and pork production. The state’s fertile land, low cost of doing business, excellent transportation infrastructure and quality workforce have attracted nearly every major food brand to set up significant operations. In fact, 36 of the largest 100 food manufacturers have operations in Iowa, including global companies like Barilla, Heinz, Hormel, Nestlé, Tyson and Quaker Oats. From breakfast to dessert, Iowa companies complete the menu.

A Symbiotic Relationship

Ice Cream Days, Le Mars, IowaFounded more than 100 years ago by the Wells family in Le Mars, Iowa – Wells Blue Bunny has helped to fuel what is now a frozen dessert microcosm. Nearby dairy farms, waffle cone bakers and packaging manufacturers help support the “Ice Cream Capital of the World” for Wells Enterprises. The maker of Blue Bunny® ice cream, Bomb Pop® and Weight Watchers® frozen treats is led by third-generation family member Mike Wells. Under his leadership, the community-minded company has undergone numerous expansions, including a 65,000 sq. ft. plant addition in 2014 and a new corporate headquarters.

“As the single largest employer in our region, the economic impact of what our business means to the community is an awesome responsibility and opportunity,” explains Mike Wells, president and CEO of Wells Enterprises. “The private/public partnership is part of the moral fabric of this community – our success and growth is interdependent.”

High-Tech Ice Cream

Wells Blue Bunny FreezersAt the height of the season, nearly 2,500 people (one in every four residents in Plymouth County, Iowa) work for Wells. That interdependence and workforce commitment will help support the company’s goal to become the largest ice cream manufacturer in the United States by 2020 – currently, they hold the number three position with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. The company is in the right location and has the talent to reach that goal. Iowa is a right-to-work state with more than 200,000 people working in the advanced manufacturing industry. And 21.4 percent of the state’s $31 billion manufacturing industry comes from food processing.

“An average piece of equipment on our plant floor can deliver real-time data in regards to efficiencies, labor utilization or mixes,” said Wells. “You need employees who have those advanced skill sets to operate those machines. We find our local workforce to have these science/technology skills right out of the high schools and local community colleges.” 

Locally Sourced Ingredients

Committed and talented employees make delicious ice cream and Wells produces 150 million gallons each year with a semi-trailer leaving the plants every 13 minutes. Iowa’s central location and interstate system (I-29 / I-80 / I-35) allow Wells to efficiently import raw ingredients and distribute frozen treats to retailers across the United States. The company sources 100 percent of its fluid milk from surrounding counties. And local suppliers like BoDeans Baking Group and IML Containers have grown steadily along with the ice cream maker. BoDeans bakes ice cream cones, while Canada-based IML opened a local facility in Le Mars to support the Wells business.

“Iowa’s stable workforce, fair tax structure and government leadership support our company’s profitability,” said Wells. “It’s a privilege for us to pay corporate taxes because we know that it gets reinvested in vital services like transportation infrastructure, top-notch schools and quality of life amenities for our employees.”

With the second lowest-cost of doing business, access to ingredients and a committed, educated workforce, Wells is home sweet home in northwest Iowa.

Video created by the Technology Association of Iowa

Published November 14, 2019

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