Homegrown success

A $2.8 million warehouse being constructed by C&S Products Company Inc. is the latest local investment by a homegrown company that is, by any measure, a success story.

The No. 1 wild bird feed producer in the world was founded in Fort Dodge in 1986. Just more than a decade later, it controlled about 80 percent of the wild bird feed industry. Today, C&S controls about 85 percent of the market and sells its products throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada, Europe and South America.

In 2009, a time when the company was looking to expand, it had 57 employees; today, it has 80 employees and openings for more.

In addition to producing wild bird suet, C&S has added other areas of wildlife and bird-feeding hobbies, including a squirrel food line with patented products and a line of wooden bird feeders.

The company, which is headquartered at 1528 Cardinal Ave. – in the Airport Industrial Park just north of Fort Dodge – has begun construction of a 50,000-square-foot addition to its facility, which will serve as the company’s distribution center.

It should be completed by the end of January 2014.

Tim O’Tool, vice president of operations for C&S, said the warehouse will be a welcome addition to the company.

“It will enhance our warehouse and distribution operations,” O’Tool said. “C&S is continuing to grow, and we hope to be able to provide good employment opportunities for many years to come.”

The company’s successes can be attributed to a number of people, including C&S’ owners, Kevin and Karen Alstott, according to O’Tool.

“I think a lot of it is a testament to the efforts of the Alstotts as owners – and our employees – that the company continues to be successful and continues to grow,” he said. “It’s the hard work and dedication of the ownership and the employees.”

Dennis Plautz, chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, said the expansion is also good news for the city.

“They are the type of company that we look for,” Plautz said. “They are not unlike Cargill, CJ and Koch Industries by virtue of the fact they are an exporter from Iowa. They use natural resources in their product line, so there is a reason for them to be located in Iowa.

“They are a perfect fit for Fort Dodge and have been great contributors to the community,” Plautz said.

In July, it appeared Fort Dodge would not have an Independence Day fireworks display because enough money hadn’t been raised – until donors, who asked to remain anonymous, offered the fund the event. The Alstotts were later revealed to be the contributors of the more than $13,000 needed.

Mayor Matt Bemrich said what makes C&S unique is that every part of its business is done locally.

“It’s a locally made, primary sector company,” Bemrich said. “Their company headquarters isn’t in Chicago or Minneapolis or St. Louis; it’s here in Fort Dodge.

“It takes a special kind of locally grown business to do that,” he said. “For Fort Dodge to be able to retain a company like C&S from their corporate headquarters to manufacturing and distribution really says something about what they believe and what the community does for them,” he said.

Bemrich added that the city appreciates the company’s commitment and looks forward to working with its officials in the future.

“The fact they continually make those kinds of investments really showcases their commitment and belief in Fort Dodge,” Bemrich said. “We’re very thankful for that.”

In addition to its Cardinal Avenue facility, C&S also owns a formerly vacant building at the corner of North 16th Street and Central Avenue, which the company renovated in 2001. That property is used for custom packaging, semi-automated lines and additional warehouse space.