An executive for Wells Dairy in LeMars says the company’s 26-million dollar expansion project is part of a plan to become the nation’s third-largest dairy. Wells is the nation’s seventh-largest dairy today. Dave Smetter, director of marketing for the dairy, says the 92-year-old company has come a long way. “When we started back in 1913, our marketplace basically was the city limits of Le Mars with a horse-drawn wagon, delivering milk door-to-door,” Smetter says. “Today, that’s changed quite a bit.” Wells Dairy products, often carrying the Blue Bunny logo, are now sold in all 50 states and 20 foreign countries. He says Wells Dairy has a more difficult time raising capital from lenders because it’s a family-held business competing against companies that’re owned by stockholders.”So we have to work harder and smarter than they do to be successful,” Smetter says. Smetter today (Tuesday) briefed Iowa legislators on the 26-million dollar “corporate campus” that is under construction in LeMars. Smetter says it consolidates into a single building all the business activities that are being conducted in seven different buildings scattered around Le Mars. “Our strategic plan really is centered on us becoming a top three national brand in ice cream, frozen novelties and fresh yogurt,” he says. “What that means is that we’re going to have to compete on that world stage.”He says they’ll boost research and development, as product innovation will be the key to competing against the “conglomerates” in the dairy industry, according to Smetter. Wells employs about 25-hundred employees. With the expansion, up to four-hundred more production workers will be hired, in addition to about 150 new workers in marketing, sales, finance and especially R-and-D. The average wage for those engineers and food science workers will be about 60-thousand dollars a year. Smetter says Wells Dairy has made about 175-million dollars in capital investments in LeMars in the past five years. State and local officials extended a number of tax breaks to Wells Dairy last year to keep the company from moving its corporate operation out of Iowa.
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