USDA Official Visits Country Maid
The story of Country Maid products of West Bend is well-known in our area, and over its’ 20 years of existence, Country Maid has grown to become more than just a popular product through the region. Country Maid and the organization that began in Ken and Marlene Banwart’s farm house basement, is a success story for rural economic development partnerships.
To put a face on one of those successes, Acting Administrator John Padalino of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development office paid a visit to Country Maid in West Bend late last month.
Accompanying Padalino were Jim Vermeer and Brittany Dickey of Corn Belt Power Cooperative in Humboldt and Bruce Nuzum, Vice President of Finance and Administration for Iowa Area Development Group.
The group was taken on a tour of the Country Maid facilities and met with officials of the company to discuss operations. After the meeting, Padalino was pleased and impressed with what he had seen.
“To think that Country Maid started in a farmhouse basement just 20 years ago is just amazing,” Padalino said. “Now they have around 70 employees and they are certainly a success story for the entrepreneurial spirit of rural America. This is exactly what we try to support through USDA Rural Development.”
USDA Rural Development first started working with County Maid in 1996, providing funding to construct a building that was ultimately purchased by the company. As Country Maid grew over the years, USDA Rural Development, along with partnering groups such as Corn Belt Power and the Iowa Area Development Group and community and regional organizations, it has remained a citizen of the West Bend community.
In its latest expansion, the company constructed a new office and production facility in the West Bend Industrial Park I 2011.
“It’s very rewarding to me to be able to come out and put a face on a project,” Padalino admitted. “Working inside the Beltway in Washington, DC, sometimes its hard to imagine the ideas of an entrepreneur when they come to one of our offices with their business plan and ask for help. That’s why it’s so crucial to have the assistance of local development groups like Corn Belt Power Cooperative, the IADG and Palo Alto-Kossuth Economic Development to work closely with us to make those dreams possible. This is the kind of success that I love to see.”
Locally, USDA Rural Development has an office in Storm Lake, which serves Palo Alto, Pocahontas, Sac, Calhoun, Carroll, Buena Vista, Clay, Dickinson and Emmet Counties.