With our two sons, we’ve always tried to impress upon them if you put your feet in the cement and you work hard, great things will happen. It is heart and soul stuff.
I think they’ve had a really interesting childhood because they’d listen to us at supper and we would talk about business and about ethanol. They’ve listened to us talk about ground breakings and grand openings. They have watched us write grants and build companies and they’ve learned marketing tools from us.
I hope that someday they will come home or move to a smaller town so their families can have the same opportunities growing up. Small towns sometimes get cast aside because people want to be in Des Moines, or in Omaha, or they want to be in Minneapolis. Our kids go off to college with the idea that they want to go to a big town—and I think that we all do a circle as we get older. It’s neat to come home, to know who your neighbors are, and to know where your safety net is.
I grew up just south of Green Bay, WI, we moved to Rockford, IL, another very big town, and then we came home here to Galva, IA, a town of 450 people in 1994. I can honestly tell you the first three years I was here was a little more than shell shock. And, I look back, at the time, it was really wonderful to have those people here--the nucleus was really a good one. It was scary that we up and left Rockford to come here to farm. We had no idea what we were doing, but it all worked out.
The year 1999 was when we got introduced to ethanol. At the time, Delayne was managing the local elevator and cut out an article in the newspaper. I still actually have it and framed it for him many years ago. It was an ad that said “Do you want to build an ethanol plant?” and, honestly, I thought he was crazy. But, I can tell you, I knew that Delayne was the one and only person in our town that could get that done. He met with five other guys, and I remember them sitting around our kitchen table throwing ideas around.
They formed this business Quad County Corn Processors, and they bought 102 acres of farm ground south of town. I remember them meeting with bankers and engineers and contractors. We scheduled investor meetings and, within probably six weeks’ time, they had enough money to break ground. I think the promise of a better, brighter future was appealing and it was a really exciting time. There was never anything of this magnitude built in Galva, IA.
I vividly recall one of the board members over at our house one day—we were so excited Quad made 40,000 gallons of ethanol—and then they made 50,000 and 60,000, and we thought that was the top. Today, they make over 100,000 gallons a day. I think people are blown away by everything that has happened at Quad in just the last three to four years.
They’ve been through a lot of hurdles just like any ethanol plant. Production struggles or different things happen and there’s good years and bad years. And, it’s just an amazing story from what they’ve done to help our main street and to help rural Iowa survive.
I think that the team of professionals that Delayne has assembled out there is a remarkable group of people. He’s got people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s—he’s got a wonderful assortment of age groups that can put their ideas together and keep moving forward. I don’t think anyone out at Quad County is content with sitting still. There’s always something going on. They want to stay ahead of the curve, and they want to continue to be leaders out there.
You know Quad has created 40 really good jobs—our boys understand how many people work out there. You know the good-paying jobs, the benefits—they get that all that stuff—from a practical side, that money pays bills. They understand that they have to do this too. They have to go out and be productive citizens. The more we can do and create here locally, the stronger our towns will be. We have to be the change.
Quad does so much and it’s just not how much money they make a year. They give back to the communities, they give back to the 4-H programs, they give money to our fire departments—they do a lot of stuff that people don’t see behind the scenes. Maybe shareholders or employees can go buy a new car or truck, maybe the farmers go to the implement dealer and they buy a new combine, or disc, or tractor. Maybe they go out to the restaurant—in fact, we have a brand new restaurant in town last year. To me, it’s just a trickle down effect. If the plant does well, the community does well.
Five years ago, I bought a century-old building on our main street here. I’ve always loved this building. It is a red brick building, great windows, and great light right on the corner of our main street. Galva has never had a fitness center, we’ve never had anything for wellness. The front half of the building is Sole 2 Soul, a fitness center filled with all kinds of equipment, and the back half of the building is called The Meeting Place.
I wanted a space where we could host fitness classes and wellness events. We do all kinds of educational programs here, so we can learn and we can grow. It’s been just an amazing little project for me, and we have people from a 60-mile radius coming in for our classes.
I didn’t grow up in Galva, Iowa, so I can’t be held responsible for what happened 50 years ago, but I work here now, I own a business. We have to assume responsibility for what happens today so that 50 years from now we can be proud of what Galva has become.
Every town has one industry that seems to be the bright spot. Like, where I grew up near Green Bay, WI, it was the paper mills. In nearby towns there’s a big manufacturing plant, there are meat packing plants. Every town has something that is the glue that holds it together and, to me, for Galva, that is Quad, our ethanol plant.
I tell Delayne all the time that the world is watching Galva. The world is watching Quad County and everyone has a story to tell. I tell Delayne you’ve got to tell your story.