Interview courtesy of Perry Beeman, Senior Staff Writer, Business Record Daily.
Gage Kent has been on the board of the Cultivation Corridor since its inception, and it makes sense. The corridor — Central Iowa’s answer to North Carolina’s Research Triangle — focuses on the biosciences; Kent is the CEO of one of Iowa’s largest agriculture and biosciences companies, Kent Corp., the parent corporation of Grain Processing Corp. The company has facilities all over the state, including one in Altoona.
In June, Kent, a co-founder of the Cultivation Corridor, will take over as elected chairman of the organization’s board. It’s a position that means collaborating with competitors, but Kent stresses that what is good for the biosciences and agriculture in general will be good for many companies, including his.
He said he is looking forward to completing work on a template that will guide the Cultivation Corridor’s early outreach work around the country and beyond. The message: A company that wants to work in the biosciences should think first of Central Iowa, home not only to Iowa State University and its expertise in bioscience fields, but also the likes of DuPont Pioneer and Kemin Industries Inc., pioneers in their fields.
We asked Kent about the early work to put the Corridor on the map, and about longer-term goals. Why is someone who is based in Muscatine going to head a board that is largely, though not completely, focused on Central Iowa? We are in the ag bioscience business. We are in the biotech business as it relates to agriculture. Iowa State is kind of the epicenter of ag bioscience in Iowa. A lot of resources are right in Central Iowa. The objective is to bring together and coordinate and promote those resources in a collaborative fashion. If it benefits any part of Iowa, it benefits Kent Corp. We have livestock feed manufacturing facilities all across the state of Iowa, including Altoona. How does the board fit into that goal? The board is uniquely designed to try to bring together all the various companies and people that are leading pieces of the ag bioscience area. My hope is that we can increase the collaboration on the board and our extended acquaintances to create some innovative developments. Doesn’t that mean working with people who are your professional rivals? Oh yeah, there are competitors on the board and in the extended community. The platform is here to improve the business climate for all of us. Everybody understands that we are trying to create an innovative setting. Someone said, “When disparate ideas come together, innovation can occur.” Can you point to some early achievements? In its infancy, this organization came together faster and better than many efforts of this type. It’s a testament to the value of the individual assets we are endeavoring to coordinate. ISU is a top-flight ag bioscience institution. If you look down the membership of the board of directors, it’s a long list of first-rate ag companies. How does the Cultivation Corridor differ from research and development centers elsewhere? We have our focus on ag bioscience and biorenewables. Iowa also has a very strong position in advanced manufacturing with John Deere and Bridgestone Firestone and Vermeer. These are all leaders in manufacturing. We’re bringing the science and manufacturing together in a unique combination. What would you like to see in the next five years? I’d like to see the organization begin to collaborate in a greater way to prepare the template to take out to the rest of the globe to use as promotional information to attract companies in the ag and bioscience spaces to be able to come to Iowa. To find this the best place in country to find bioscience and scale it up to commercial scale. We will be increasing our promotional activities. What do you do when you aren’t focused on Kent or the Cultivation Corridor? Work fills a lot of the day. I’m involved in trade associations, and I’m on the board of trustees at Simpson College. I play at golf. I don’t know if I would be considered a golfer. I like family activities, and hunting and fishing. I’ve seen pheasants this year on pieces of land where I haven’t seen them in years.
To read more about the Cultivation Corridor visit www.cultivationcorridor.org.