COLFAX — As winter moves out and spring moves in, frost and frozen earth is being replaced by moisture and soft soil in Iowa’s farm fields, and the Practical Farm Research team at the Beck’s Hybrids Colfax facility is preparing for its second planting in the western Jasper County community.
It’s been a big year for the Atlanta, Ind.-based agriculture seed distributor. Beck’s officially opened its 90,000 square $15 million distribution center in August after its May 2015 announcement and October 2015 groundbreaking.
However, Beck’s began marketing in Iowa in 2014, after about five years of solidifying its Illinois presence.
Beck’s Colfax ribbon cutting also served as its inaugural field day, which demonstrates how the company’s seed product performs in varying soil types on 190-acres of land surrounding and nearby the Colfax facility.
The field day attracted nearly 1,300 farmers and agri-business professionals to the town of 2,093, and the ribbon cutting included the likes of Gov. Terry Branstad, Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debbie Durham and many county and local officials.
The event was Branstad’s third visit to Colfax within three months — his second trip related to Beck’s. The third was for a skilled labor education discussion with Colfax-based Dickerson Mechanical, Inc.
Jasper County Economic Development Corporation Director Chaz Allen — who made the announcement that Beck’s was coming to Colfax in 2015, also attended the ribbon cutting.
During the event Beck’s Hybrid President Scott Beck commented on what categories of jobs the facility will generate. As of December, Beck’s Central Research Operations Manager Andrew Nickell said the company has gone from zero to 72 employees in Iowa within two years, 18 workers in Mt. Pleasant and 18 full-time staff in Marshalltown.
There are 36 full-time sales staff now in Iowa. When the Colfax facility was first proposed, Beck’s told state and county officials the distribution center would host 50 jobs once it reaches capacity.
“Here, we’ll have two or three practical research people, two or three sales support and one or two warehouse people for sure,” Beck said. “We also have sales representatives and field agronomists.”
Colfax Mayor David Mast said he hopes those jobs will employ local workers and relocate new families to Colfax.
“Having the governor come out gives us visibility, and helps us make connections,” Mast said in August. “Awareness of where we’re located and what our capabilities are always helps.”
Beck’s has also gained the interest of federally elected officials. Democratic Congressman Dave Loebsack, who represents Jasper County as part of Iowa’s second congressional district, met with Becks’ officials in December in Colfax to discuss agricultural markets and the company’s expansion in Iowa.
In the last two years, Beck’s purchased two facilities in Iowa for research and seed production in Mt. Pleasant and Marshalltown before building in Colfax. The largest family-owned seed retailer in the United States, Jasper County and the City of Colfax gave the company a five-year, sliding scale tax abatement in exchange for locating and annexing into the small rural community.
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