Biotech Firm Opens "New Frontiers" In Iowa

Iowa Farm Scene

Agriculture and biotech are focus of Kemin Industries new research and development center in Des Moines.

Published on: September 23, 2013

An Iowa-based agriculture and biotechnology company, Kemin Industries, recently opened its new $16.7 million research and development center in southeast Des Moines. The new facility will allow the 60 employees who work in the building to reach "new frontiers in science" previously unavailable to the company.

The science from the lab will drive development of new products and new generations of existing products. Kemin makes specialty ingredients for a number of products ranging from human health, nutrition and cosmetics to feed additives for dairy cows and beef cattle. The company strives to create products that benefit human health and make livestock healthier and more productive, says Kemin CEO Chris Nelson.



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The new 46,300 square foot Molecular Advancement Center, or MAC, includes state-of-the-art laboratories. The company's existing Innovation Center continues to operate at full capacity with scientists focused on discovery research and pet food. Kemin also plans to build a new corporate headquarters nearby as well as additional manufacturing and research facilities, bringing its investment in new facilities to $40 million. The headquarters is expected to be completed in 2017.

Kemin has added more than 100 employees to support its recent growth

"Our new facility is more than a building. It represents our confidence in employees, our commitment to Des Moines and our vision to improve the quality of life of half the world's population," says Nelson. "The world today presents an enormous challenge for where Kemin needs to go in the next few years. By 2050, an estimated 9 billion people will occupy this planet. They will require 70% more food than we have today." He says Kemin is dedicated to helping feed the increasing population and "it's our mission and passion to do that with safe, nutritious food on a worldwide basis."

Plans for the MAC facility were first announced when Kemin shared its worldwide expansion plans in October 2010. At that time the firm committed to hiring workers for 98 new positions. But it already exceeded that number by hiring 137 new, full-time workers by August 2013. They range from scientists to manufacturing workers. Kemin employs 2,000 people globally.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

When the Kemin expansion in Des Moines is complete, Kemin will have added six new manufacturing facilities, three new research facilities and a new corporate headquarters building -- altogether a more than $40 million investment.

STEM education important to attract and keep a skilled workforce

Nearly 150 scientists from Des Moines and around the world participated in the recent dedication of the Molecular Advancement Center. Citing the 26 open positions, Nelson emphasized the importance of STEM education as it relates to the company's ability to attract and retain a skilled workforce. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

"It's not the building that's most important but the people who work in the building," says Nelson. "That's the future of this company. I can't talk to you enough about the importance of STEM education for students from grade school through high school in the next five to 10 years. It builds jobs in Iowa and jobs in the world that bring us forward in many technological areas and allows us to feed the enormous numbers of people on this planet."

"This company's phenomenal growth is something we can be proud of," said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who spoke at the dedication of the new Kemin center. Kemin has experienced 12% to 15% growth in each of the past five years. The company's last laboratory in Des Moines was built in 1985. "Today, with the new MAC facility we are going from a 5,000 square foot to a nearly 50,000 square foot facility," notes Nelson.

Kemin produces innovative products for both human and livestock nutrition and health

"Our scientists are looking forward to doing brand new things you've only heard about at universities," says Nelson. For example, Kemin is developing products that use extracts from plants like sage, spearmint and oregano to improve animal nutrition and health.

The key to the future is education of students "who are ready to take jobs that involve high levels of technology," says Nelson. He praised Branstad and Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds for their work to improve Iowa's STEM education programs. Branstad said, "We are proud the state of Iowa is partnering with Kemin. You could have built this facility anywhere. But you chose Iowa. We are proud to have a world class company with its headquarters here and it will continue to grow."~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

Nelson said city, county and state financial assistance "made the project possible." In October 2010, Kemin received a $1 million forgivable loan from the state to help with the expansion. Kemin can also take advantage of about $3.6 million in tax credits, mainly for investing in new offices and equipment, and it can get $600,000 in job training assistance. The company will also get an estimated $2.7 million in tax abatement from the city of Des Moines.

STEM education is important to attract and retain skilled workers in new fields of technology and agriculture

Also addressing the crowd at the MAC dedication, Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds added, "I would like to take every single one of you with me on the road, so our young people in Iowa would learn firsthand about the career opportunities that exist right here in Iowa, thanks to outstanding companies like Kemin. Iowa serves as a national role model for the STEM program we've put in place. We're going to do everything we can to make sure Iowa has a talented workforce for the future. We want Iowa to continue to grow in innovation and competitiveness. And because Kemin has chosen to grow and invest and stay here in Iowa, this is a great opportunity for the state to continue working with you. Thanks for choosing Iowa, locating in Iowa and for investing in Iowa."

For more information: Kemin provides "inspired molecular solutions" specifically developed to provide health benefits for humans and animals. Committed to food and feed safety, Kemin maintains manufacturing facilities where approximately 500 specialty ingredients are made for the global feed and food industries as well as the health, nutrition and beauty markets. A privately-held family-owned and operated company, Kemin has nearly 2,000 employees and operates in more than 90 countries with manufacturing facilities in Belgium, Brazil, China, India, Italy, Singapore, South Africa and the U.S.