An Iowa Icon Opens Outreach Office in ISU Research Park | ISU Research Park

Kent’s focus on science-based solutions spurs decision to establish physical presence in Ames

Kent Corporation is the epitome of a long-standing, Iowa-based company.

Founded as a small, family-owned livestock feed operation in Indianola more than nine decades ago, it has evolved into a diversified global business.   From feed and related products for commercial livestock and domesticated animals—including, birds, dogs and cats—to food ingredients, personal hydration products, , and many other products for human consumption, Kent products are sold to customers throughout the globe

That international footprint, however, remains rooted in the United States and, more specifically, in Iowa. With 23 locations in 13 states and 3 countries, Kent Corporation is headquartered in the southeastern Iowa town of Muscatine. From Muscatine, the company manages all of its corporate functions for their four divisions, including Grain Processing Corporation, Kent Nutrition Group, Kent Precision Foods Group and Kent Pet Group. along with manufacturing, sales, and research and development for several of its divisions.

In recent months, Kent has extended its reach in Iowa, establishing a satellite office in the Iowa State University Research Park in Ames. Headed by Jeff Underwood, the office serves a strategic purpose.

“We are all about innovation,” Underwood says. “We are looking for science-based solutions that will help us to better serve our customers. We want to work with world-class research universities and Iowa State fits that bill. It was an easy decision to establish a physical presence here.”

Proximity to Talent
From the office in the Research Park, Underwood coordinates a growing intern program focused on those with expertise in information technology, software engineering, nutrition, and food science research that aligns with Kent’s diverse product lines. But that’s not all.

“We are looking for students who are motivated and skilled in any and all disciplines,” Underwood says. “We are a very diverse organization. We offer everything from cat litter to hydration drinks. As such, we need interns and employees with a range of educational backgrounds.”

Jessica Schaumburg, an Iowa State grad student in Food Science, has served as an associate science intern at the Kent office in the Park since October 2018.

Like many large companies in recent years—among them Pella, Vermeer, and TMC Transportation—Kent saw expanding their strategic partnership with Iowa State as a win-win. Having an office space in Ames makes it easier for Kent to offer internships outside of the summer. And having Kent so close helps students get practical work experience at a company that has proven to be an international leader in its industries.

“Our primary reason for being here is access to the talent that Iowa State produces,” Underwood says. “It also offers an opportunity to keep an eye on the technology being developed here and to move to incorporate the technologies that will help us continue to innovate much quicker than we ever have. We see this office as one more way we are fostering growth organization wide.”

In the Center of it All
Choosing to set up shop in the Research Park also offered Kent the opportunity to “network” with a number of other companies who have a presence in Ames. Underwood has long been involved with the Cultivation Corridor—an association of public and private partners working with Iowa colleges and universities to spur advancements and accelerate growth in the agbioscience, biorenewables, biotech and advanced manufacturing industries—and says it is valuable to Kent to be immersed in a culture of innovation.

“There are so many exciting startups and projects coming out of Central Iowa, and Ames, in particular,” Underwood says. “We wanted to be sure we had a front row seat to that innovation and that we were helping to drive it.”

There has also been a side benefit of having an office in close proximity to outreach offerings from some of those familiar, aforementioned Iowa companies.

“The environment for collaboration here is so rich,” Underwood says. “I can’t wait to see what the coming months and years bring.”

Underwood says that the leadership team of the Research Park went above and beyond to ensure Kent could find the right space to meet its corporate objectives with the satellite office.

“This was all brand new to us,” Underwood says, “we really don’t have anything like it anywhere else. We relied on the Research Park staff to help us through it. They were very responsive when we had questions and provided input that ensured we were ready to go as soon as we opened our doors. They made it easy for us to make this happen.”