Business spotlight: AgSource a key player in local economic growth
By Matthieu Vollmer
MARSHFIELD — AgSource Laboratories, a subsidiary of Cooperative Resources International, has demonstrated steady growth and economic stability. The company has added, on average, one new employee per year for the past 20 years and has tripled the size of its lab facility over the last year or so.
“We are providing testing to make sure the food chain is safe,” said Vice President of Laboratory Management Eric Helms. According to Helms, the business generates roughly $3.5 million in sales per year and employs 38 people. The company strives to grow by five to 15 percent per year, in other words, consistent and steady growth.
AgSource, a cooperative established in 1959, is a member of the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce & Industry (MACCI), Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Wisconsin Laboratory Association, and the Wisconsin Wastewater Operators’ Association.
“They are very congenial. The quality of the work, turnaround time, and accuracy of results is good. They stay very up to date in terms of their equipment,” said Ken Heiman, co-owner of Nasonville Dairy. According to Heiman, Nasonville has been doing business with AgSource since before 1970. The laboratory provides milk, cheese, environmental, and water testing for Nasonville Dairy.
Its original location was in Stratford, but the business moved to Marshfield in June 2014. The new lab is about three times larger than its Stratford location and, according to Helms, is more convenient for customers and employees in terms of location.
“MACCI was very good to us when we moved to town. They were very helpful. What MACCI does is very beneficial,” said Helms when commenting on activities that spur economic development. He also mentioned the importance of infrastructure and education.
Currently, AgSource employs graduates from the UW-Stevens Point, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, Mid-State Technical College, and other programs. Most graduates have backgrounds in biology, chemistry, or natural science.
“This (Marshfield) area is surrounded by and is absolutely agriculturally oriented. This (AgSource testing) becomes an absolute necessity,” said Heiman. “They are one of the main threads of the economic infrastructure of this area.”
The business offers milk and other dairy product testing, food testing, water testing, and waste water testing with the goal of providing “accurate results, valuable information, superior customer service, and convenient reports.”
Fifty percent of the testing done is for milk, 30 percent for food and dairy, 15 percent for water, and a remaining five percent for miscellaneous testing requests. AgSource offers testing services for pathogens, yeast and mold, bacteria, metals, and more.
According to Helms, the business was impacted by the 2008 economic crisis but has recovered. AgSource has grown in water, environmental, and food safety testing as government restrictions and requirements intensify.
When asked what his favorite aspect of the business is, Helms said, “Dealing with dairy plant operators, owners, and field staff, that’s what I enjoy. I enjoy working with that group of people and the people I meet.”
Helms summed up the company’s customer service philosophy in three words, “Fast, accurate, and reliable.” He further explained that AgSource carries several certifications required by state and federal regulatory agencies.
Most of the testing they do is mandated by state and federal governments.
“We are providing data and information to customers that allow them to make management decisions,” said Helms.