Why Iowa Profile: Xiaowen Guo

Xiaowen Guo

Why Iowa? Q&A with Xiaowen Guo

Xiaowen Guo has a wide range of responsibilities to ensure that Kent Corporation’s products are meeting regulatory requirements and that new products and ingredients can be brought to market around the world. Guo joined Kent Corporation in 2017 as Director of Regulatory Affairs and works with all four of the company’s operating businesses: Grain Processing Corporation (GPC), Kent Nutrition Group, Kent Precision Foods, and Kent Pet Group.

Guo is a native of China, earning her bachelor’s degree in engineering and master’s degree in chemistry in Shanghai, before coming to the United States to continue her education. After studying for one year at the University of Missouri at Rolla, she came to Iowa State University and earned a master’s degree in accounting with a minor in business administration.

She has found professional opportunities in Iowa, first with Kemin Industries in Des Moines, then with Kent Corporation in Muscatine, as well as a great fit for her family. Guo and her two children live in Muscatine, Iowa, where she is involved in several organizations including Friends of Musser Public Library and Muscatine China Initiative Committee. She is also active in industry organizations, including Corn Refiners Association.

1. Why did you decide to stay in Iowa after completing your studies at Iowa State?
There are three important reasons why I’ve made Iowa my home: job opportunities, people, and the commute. Over the past 10 years since earning a degree from Iowa State, I’ve had the opportunity to work at two privately held companies that are deeply rooted in Iowa but serve customers around the world. I am able to use my diverse background to help companies navigate international markets.

The people I’ve met and worked with here in Iowa are very important. I’ve always felt surrounded by kindness and met people who are helpful and friendly. I truly enjoy the small-town feel of 23,000 people in Muscatine; it seems everyone knows everyone, and I feel connected with people everywhere I go. It is a huge difference compared to living in Shanghai with a population of 26 million.

There is no comparison with traffic and commute times. Here, I have an 8-minute drive to my office and can drive anywhere in town in 15 minutes. It saves a lot of time, which I need, especially with two children.

2. People are often surprised at the wide number of products that Kent Corporation manufactures. How does your role in Regulatory Affairs support product innovation at the company?
Many people are most familiar with the Kent Nutrition Group business that manufactures and markets animal feed and nutrition products. In fact, our company started when G.A. Kent began manufacturing and selling cattle feed in 1927.

Since then, the company has expanded with innovative science and products to serve livestock, pets, and people around the world. My job is just a small part of that, but very rewarding, because I support all four operating businesses to monitor regulatory rules and policies to ensure that our products are in compliance around the world, review marketing materials and product claims, implement regulatory strategies so that novel ingredients can be reviewed and approved by government agencies, and monitor administration policies and positions that might impact our company.

Grain Processing Corporation (GPC) is a corn wet milling company with facilities in Iowa and Indiana. It produces a number of alcohols, corn starches, maltodextrins, and corn oils that are sold as ingredients to other companies. Kent Precision Foods Group makes and markets a broad and diverse range of products for both retail and foodservice markets, including Mrs. Wages seasoning packs for canning, Sqwincher hydration products, Land O Lakes cocoa mixes, and soft-serve ice cream mixes. Finally, Kent Pet Group uses innovative science to use natural ingredients to develop better pet products, including World’s Best Cat Litter, which takes advantage of the natural absorbent properties of corn.

3. How does its Iowa location provide Kent Corporation an advantage in serving its customers around the world?

In addition to being surrounded by many natural, renewable resources, like corn, which we use to make high-quality products, we have great people in Iowa; for an employer like Kent, hiring good people means everything. Being in the heart of America provides a number of other benefits, with one of the most significant being access to agricultural crops produced here, especially corn. As a company, we use literally every part of the corn kernel in a product, whether is it feed for livestock, ingredients or corn oils for food products, nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, personal care or industrial products … even cat litter!

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, GPC has manufactured millions of gallons of ethyl alcohol from corn to support the production of essential products in the fight against Covid-19 including hand sanitizers, disinfectants, cleaners and surfactants, mouthwash, cough, and cold medicines. Products from GPC are also used in the manufacture of active pharma ingredients, vaccine components, and Covid-19 testing reagents.

4. What advice would you give someone considering a move to Iowa?
Not only can Iowa provide great career opportunities, it is also a great place to raise a family. You may not feel “swept up” in the busyness of a big city like Shanghai, but if you keep an open mind and get involved in the community, you’ll be surprised at how welcoming Iowa communities can be. It will quickly become your home. I have been here for 14 years and Iowa is definitely home to me and my kids.

5. Please give us three recommendations of things to do or places to go in Iowa.
First of all, check out Muscatine! To soak up the beautiful views of the Mississippi River, I recommend you stay at the Merrill Hotel, an award-winning hotel right on the riverfront; ask for a room with a view – you will not regret it.

Second, check out the museums and our nice community library in Muscatine. The National Pearl Button Museum tells the fascinating story of the pearl button industry during its peak in the early 1900s. The Muscatine Art Center houses a tremendous collection of art. I serve as the president of the Friends of the Musser Public Library, so shameless plug to stop in the library when you’re in town; it used to be the HNI Corporation headquarters before they gifted the building to the community and built a gorgeous headquarters just a few blocks away.

Lastly, I would just encourage anyone to enjoy Iowa’s outdoor activities, including the many biking trails and hiking trails. Deep Lakes Park in Muscatine is worth a stop if you are in the area.