Why Iowa with Ashtyn Zinn | America's Cultivation Corridor
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Why Iowa? Five Questions with Ashtyn Zinn

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Ashtyn Zinn

Elanco Animal Health

Ashtyn Zinn is an Indiana native who has found both a professional and personal fit in Iowa. 

Zinn grew up in Evansville, Indiana, where she earned a B.S. in biology at the University of Southern Indiana, then moved to Toledo, Ohio, to complete a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology and a master’s in public health in Administration.  She began her professional career in human pharmaceuticals in Denver, Colorado, then landed in Fort Dodge, Iowa, in 2019 as the director of quality assurance for Elanco Animal Health.

Over the past five years, she has led the quality assurance department, the quality control department, and now a division of the technical services team. Zinn is also an adjunct professor at Iowa Central Community College and helps guest lecture several courses focused on careers in industry at Iowa State University. She has been nominated to the Board of Directors for BioConnect Iowa, pending approval of Gov. Kim Reynolds.

1. What brought you to Iowa and why have you stayed?

Quite simply, a job offer that could not be matched anywhere else brought me to Iowa. I stay because I continue to experience amazing success in my career – my trajectory and speed of acceleration is substantially greater than my peers that live in areas like California, Boston, etc. The people that I have met while living in Iowa have done everything they can to continue pushing my career forward. These are people that are extremely well respected and established in their various industries. They are also people that I would have never personally met if I wasn’t living in Iowa. I have found that Iowa is like a secret hideout for some of the most successful individuals in agriculture and biotech.

Apart from that, my family and I have grown deep roots. My children absolutely love their school where they excel academically, and we are able to live a very comfortable life due to the cost of living. “Iowa Nice” is a cliché because it’s so true – everyone here has been very welcoming and while we don’t necessarily live close to family, we always feel like we’re among family.

2. What are your priorities for the technical services team at Elanco?

I lead a group of brilliant scientists to bring new vaccines and technology into the manufacturing facility. Our goal is to provide safe, effective and affordable vaccines to the world so that we can keep our pets and food supply safe.

I also oversee academic partnerships to ensure that we stay connected to Iowa’s educational institutions to provide opportunities to the next generation of scientists and drive innovation in animal health manufacturing. I’m always so impressed with the students in Iowa and the opportunities that they are afforded. The educational institutions here are very forward focused – they want to prepare students for careers, not just have them regurgitate information from textbooks. Iowa really is invested in developing talent and I’m happy to be a part of that.

3. As an animal health company, what are the benefits of a location in Iowa?

Our Fort Dodge site began more than 100 years ago due to its proximity to our customers, and remains a key location in animal health vaccine manufacturing for the world. We provide over 200 unique vaccines for companion animals and livestock. Currently, we have over 400 employees between our manufacturing, quality and R&D departments. Fort Dodge is one of our largest sites and as a result offers ample and unique career opportunities. I feel very lucky to have started my career with Elanco, and in animal health, at this site.

Additionally, we have one of the leading animal health innovation universities in the nation right down the road – Iowa State. Not only do we benefit from the services available at Iowa State, but we are also able to recruit the nation’s top talent and offer them promising careers.

4. What advice do you have for someone considering a move or return to Iowa? 

Take the leap – consider the whole picture. I think any logical person can agree that you will do much better financially in Iowa. Corporations located in Iowa are still offering competitive wages because we are successful and have the profit margins to match our competitors on the coasts, but our cost of living is substantially lower than other parts of the nation. Your children will grow up in safe neighborhoods in Iowa and you will be able to afford to give them the opportunities any parent dreams of.

Also consider that the professional opportunities you will be presented with in Iowa are much greater in both quality and quantity than you may encounter elsewhere. It is my experience that Iowans, and companies located in Iowa, want Iowa to grow. The people here will go out of their way to make sure you are successful here if that’s what you want.

5. Please share three recommendations of things to do or places to go in Iowa.

I’m going to cheat a little and just blanket the first with: Des Moines. The food is fantastic (sushi, seafood, steaks, anything you can think of), there is always some sort of show (including Broadway and some of the most popular musicians) or event going on, the parks are well maintained, and you don’t have to sit in traffic for an hour to go 10 miles down the road. They even have a handy indoor walkway through downtown so you can get around comfortably during the winter. Catch Des Moines is my go-to for weekend planning.   

If you’re like me and you love the outdoors, you need to visit Maquoketa. The eastern side of Iowa is absolutely gorgeous with rolling hills and the river! At Maquoketa you can walk right into multiple caves and explore them at your own pace. There are plenty of small towns surrounding the park with all of that “Iowa charm” for a weekend getaway or an amazing meal.

Lastly, and even if you don’t love to bike, you have to visit the High Trestle Trail! The bridge is amazing any time of day and is an easy walk from Madrid. The trail itself is well shaded and maintained – if you are a lover of bikes, you don’t have to worry about your tires or water bottles on this one. There are so many cute little shops, restaurants and bars within steps of the 50+ mile path.

Published June 2024.

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