Why Iowa Profile: Lucas Nelson

Lucas Nelson Kemin Industries MedPharm Iowa

Why Iowa? Q&A with Lucas Nelson

Lucas Nelson grew up in Evansville, Indiana, but has found a new home in Iowa and at a company that was founded by his grandparents, R.W. and Mary Nelson, 60 years ago.

Nelson earned his undergraduate degree in Virginia and law degree in Indiana and was working as a real estate lawyer in Kentucky when he made the move to Des Moines to join the legal team at Kemin Industries. He worked in the company’s legal and animal nutrition business efforts before leading the team that applied for the manufacturing license to be the first company to produce and sell medical cannabis products in Iowa.

Nelson is now the General Manager of MedPharm Iowa, which launched as a separate business from Kemin Industries in November 2017. MedPharm retains a close working relationship with Kemin Industries.

1. How was its Iowa location an advantage for Kemin Industries as it developed into a global leader in the food, feed and ingredient marketplace?

Kemin was started in 1961 in an Iowa barn, and has grown into a multinational company producing more than 500 specialty ingredients serving more than 120 countries. Kemin ingredients are used in a wide range of industries, including animal health, nutraceuticals, pet food, food technologies, crop technologies, textiles, aquaculture and animal vaccines.

Iowa has served as the perfect home for Kemin throughout its 60 years of operation. As a hub for agriculture, we’ve been able to work with customers in all sorts of agricultural markets to help meet their needs with our products. The colleges and universities in this state continue to be at the forefront of research in many of the fields Kemin serves, and that pipeline of ideas and people has accelerated Kemin’s success. Iowa is a great place to call home, and we’ve been fortunate to both attract and retain employees and their families for years and years.

2. What does MedPharm bring to the new medical cannabis marketplace?

As an Iowa-based company with decades of experience in growing plants, then extracting molecules for the development of valuable ingredients for food, feed and other industries, we saw the new medical cannabis market as an opportunity to bring our innovation, research expertise and professionalism to the new industry. We were the first company to apply for a manufacturing license in 2017, then applied for dispensary locations in Des Moines and Sioux City in 2018. For the last four years, we’ve focused on building the company and growing the program in Iowa, as well as educating the medical and patient community about the program and how we can address their medical needs.

An entity like Kemin with a strong scientific background brings a level of professionalism and quality control to what is a new product in the state. If you walk through our facilities, it looks like every other professional lab and research setting with full lab setups, quality control and testing facilities. This level of professionalism has been one of the reasons behind our success.

3. What opportunities are there for young professionals in Iowa?
There are a lot of attractive reasons to live in Iowa and Des Moines, both professionally and personally.

Companies like Kemin and its family of businesses, along with many others, are working to attract top scientific talent and business leaders from around the world. Those who move here are finding a great balance of cutting-edge professional opportunities with all the benefits of lower cost of living, outdoor activities and a midwestern, small town feel.

Young professionals moving to the area appreciate the incredible number of opportunities to get involved with community activities, boards and nonprofits. There isn’t a problem in finding a group to connect with and make an impact, and that isn’t always the case in bigger cities.

4. What advice would you give to someone considering a move to Iowa?
Come visit! Many people have a preconceived notion of the state which is very different than what you experience when you arrive. You’ll find a good network of people who are willing to help you learn about the city and state.

As soon as you arrive, jump into the community by finding activities and network that fit your personal or professional interests. There are lots of opportunities to find circles of people who share your interests.

5. Please give us three recommendations of things to do or places to go in Iowa.
If you truly want to see Iowa, you have to participate in RAGBRAI —the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. It is the best way to fully experience everything about the state from farms and small towns to cities, enjoying great food and company along the way, and you don’t have to be a great cyclist to do it!

The restaurant scene in Des Moines is top notch, start with Simon’s for incredible food with a local touch and homey services, and RōCA in the Historic Court Avenue District downtown.

Get out across the state on bike trails that will take you in and out of cities and small towns. It is a great opportunity to meet people and learn about some cool communities.