(Sentinel photo by Beverly Van Buskirk)
1 Blue Bunny Drive has a brand new home.
Wells' Dairy, Inc. celebrated the opening of its new $26 million corporate campus with a ribbon cutting Wednesday in Le Mars.
Officials from Wells' Dairy, the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce, the Le Mars Business Initiative Corporation, Plymouth County and the City of Le Mars delivered comments prior to the opening.
Le Mars mayor Virgil Van Beek, noticing spectators watching from the second and third level balconies (bridges) of the 178,000 square foot complex, joked: "This is a very exciting event and I hope you don't mind having to look at the top of my head."
Calling the corporate center "the new front door of Le Mars," Van Beek said he was "elated" when Wells' Dairy decided to stay in Le Mars.
"That was a great day for Le Mars," he mentioned. "When we broke ground last year on this new facility, that was another great day for Le Mars. And today, as we celebrate the Wells' Corporate Campus, it is yet another great day for Le Mars."
Van Beek concluded: "Your new facility will be an icon to the community for many days and many years to come."
"Wells' Dairy, Inc.'s decision to stay in Le Mars says so much about the community," said Neal Adler, executive director of the Le Mars Area Chamber of Commerce and the Le Mars Business Initiative Corporation. "It is symbolic of the aggressive attitude our businesses have."
"You don't last 93 years without having a strong competitive edge," he continued. "In terms of Wells, I've never doubted it. But now I have seen it first hand."
"I'm am proud that Le Mars is the home of Wells' Dairy, Inc.," Adler added.
Paul Sitzmann, chairman of the Plymouth County Board of Supervisors, thanked Wells' Dairy "for staying where your roots are."
"I am sure that the best is yet to come," Sitzmann mentioned, "and that Wells' will reach its goal of becoming a top three national brand in frozen novelties, ice cream and fresh frozen yogurt."
Gary Wells, CEO of Wells' Dairy, Inc. called the grand opening "not only a landmark day for the company but also for the Wells family."
"It is quite fitting that we conduct our ribbon cutting at this time," he explained. "On Oct. 23, 1913, Fred H. Wells, Jr., my grandfather, signed a contract to start a business in Le Mars. I'm sure Fred would be extremely proud of where Wells' Dairy is today."
Wells remembered his own humble beginnings.
"As a young Wells' employee in the 70s, I worked in a 1,000-foot office with my dad," Wells explained. "It was wonderful because everybody knew what everybody else was doing because we were literally on top of one another."
"As the company grew larger and expanded into different locations, I think we lost something."
(Sentinel photo by Magdalene Biesanz)
"We want to create an atmosphere that will inspire collaboration and teamwork," he maintained. "I think we've succeeded."
Situated on a 40-acre site southwest of Le Mars, the Corporate Center's design blends with the natural topography of the northwest Iowa landscape. The history of Wells' Dairy and Le Mars is captured within the walls of the facility, as the company assigns its 35 meeting rooms with names relevant to the dairy or the community.
"We will have 425 employees make the move to the new corporate center," said Dave Smetter, Wells' Dairy, Inc.'s director of marketing communication. "We began the move seven weeks ago and are currently about 75 percent done."
Wells' Dairy offers a special invitation to residents to attend a Public Open House event on Saturday, Nov. 11, from 2-4 p.m.. Tours of the facility will be available during the event.