In his nearly 40 years with KENT® Corporation, Rich Dwyer has served in a number of roles, starting as a sales trainee who also hosted livestock fitting and trimming workshops for 4-H members through sales and sales management roles across Iowa in the Kent Feeds organization. He was named president of KENT Feeds in 2002, and in 2010 became President of Kent Nutrition Group pulling two regional brands, Kent Feeds and Blue Seal Feeds, under one roof. In 2011, Dwyer became Senior Vice President – Corporate Affairs and Enterprise Risk Management for KENT Corporation, with responsibility for community and government relations, and enterprise risk.
Dwyer is an Atkinson, Illinois native, and attended Black Hawk East Junior College. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Animal Industries at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He began working at Kent Feeds two weeks after graduation and is still excited about the opportunities and innovation underway at the family-owned company.
1. What brought you to Iowa and why have you stayed?
I grew up on a cattle and hog operation, but as the youngest of 10 children, the opportunities to join the family farm were limited. I saw the chance to take a job in Iowa working with livestock farmers as a good way to find my own path and stay involved in agriculture. As a hotbed for the agriculture industry, Iowa was a perfect fit for my interest in animal production.
I’ve stayed in Iowa because of the great opportunities to grow in my career and to raise a family. New roles and responsibilities at KENT Corporation have kept me excited and engaged, with new things to learn, talented and collaborative coworkers who are passionate about their community and state.
I see the advantages for businesses here in Iowa, as the state is focused on growth and supporting businesses as they startup and grow.
2. How has innovation driven growth at KENT?
Everything we do is based on innovation. The company was founded in 1927 with Kent 34% Baby Beef that revolutionized the feed business (which was fed to my calves growing up). Our scientists created the patent for the corn-derivative food ingredient maltodextrin; the idea to add value to a kernel of corn led to the development of a more sustainable, natural cat litter. These innovations, and many more examples, have led to KENT Corporation being named as a 2023 US Best Managed Company for the fourth consecutive year, and we’re excited about the future with a number of projects underway, including:
KENT Corporation is refurbishing the historic McKee Button Factory originally built in 1907 into an office complex for our KENT Pet Group and KENT Precision Foods Group business units in Muscatine. McKee Button is one of 12 historic sites in the state of Iowa, and we are working with the state historic preservation office to refurbish and renovate it for our consumer goods teams.
We recently held a groundbreaking for a new $80 million plant in Muscatine to produce World’s Best Cat Litter®. We looked at a number of states, but chose to keep the plant in Iowa.
Our Grain Processing Corporation (GPC) business continues to grow as well, and we are investing in infrastructure and facility upgrades.
3. KENT and its employees are very active in supporting communities, why is that important? Are there examples of programs you have been involved in?
We recognize that we play a big role in the community in many of the places where we have facilities or employees. It is important for our employees to have a great place to live, work and raise a family, and we see it as a win-win for everyone when we build stronger communities.
In my Corporate Affairs role, I’ve had the opportunity to network and leverage relationships from the Muscatine Community to the state of Iowa and the Federal Government to collaborate and grow our local community. Iowa is beyond just being “Iowa Nice”, it’s about collaboration and getting things done. Being involved with the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine, combined with connections across the state, the community was able to extend a partnership with Unity Point Trinity Muscatine Hospital to build a new clinic facility with donated funds that benefit all of Muscatine and surrounding communities. Funding for the $21 million clinic facility is about complete with groundbreaking scheduled for mid-June this year.
In a similar collaborative role to mitigate the risk of flooding from a levee breach to our facility, and many others, as well as the power supply, water, and water treatment facility for the City of Muscatine. The Levee Stakeholder Group was formed to evaluate potential solutions. Multiple studies were completed with the US Army Corp of Engineers along with an engineering firm that specializes in levees. A solution was discovered and following a change in the state law to allow counties to use obligation bonds for flood prevention, the plan is on pace to start construction in fall 2023.
4. What advice do you have for someone considering a move to Iowa?
Give it a chance! There are so many vibrant and welcoming communities across the state. As an avid bike rider, I’ve enjoyed seeing them firsthand through RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) rides. It is a chance to see “Iowa Nice, and then some” in action across the entire state.
Iowa is a great place to raise a family with a top-notch education system. From a business standpoint, it is exciting to see the work underway to grow the state’s economy and opportunities for businesses to succeed.
5. Please share three recommendations for places to go or things to do in Iowa.
RAGBRAI is something everyone should see or experience. Whether you ride for the entire week, a day or a few miles, or help support a community along the route, it is phenomenal to see. The 50th anniversary ride will be held this July and I look forward to seeing Iowa welcome riders from around the world.
Don’t miss the Iowa State Fair. Having grown up in livestock circles, my favorite places are the livestock barns and shows to see the people and camaraderie.
Finally, explore and get involved in your own local community. In every corner of the state, there are events, festivals and ways to volunteer to make Iowa an even better place to live. Being a part of your own community’s success and growth is as rewarding an experience as any.
Published May 2023.