With every hand-packaged bowl, plate, spoon and fork, Spuds, Inc., is positioning itself for growth. After the tragic loss of two newborns to a rare genetic disease, Jill and Tim Wymore started a company making baby products that eliminate exposure to toxins found in certain plastics. Their products are made from potatoes.
"We're able to take the leftovers after they make French fries and tater tots and we can take their waste products and pelletize it to injection-mold it," Jill said. Read more about the process at spudsinc.com.
The couple moved from Huntley to Dwight three years ago to open a 20,000- square foot facility where items including teething rings and snack cups are designed, finished and shipped. The products are molded at a plant in Paxton, Illinois. The couple employs about seven full-time workers. They hope to hire 50 more over the next two years.
"It just takes sales. It takes customers to be interested enough to buy Spuds products so we can sell enough products and slowly expand other areas. We need to bring more of the manufacturing in-house and that, of course, adds manufacturing jobs," Tim said.
Dwight may seem an unlikely place to set up shop since many people know it for the prison, but the Wymores say a proactive mayor helped recruit them with incentives.
First term Mayor Bill Wilkey said trouble with the town's two biggest employers -- the prison is slated to close soon and RR Donnelly is printing fewer phone books -- means his town has to recruit new businesses.
"You constantly got to be looking for businesses that you can bring here for the workforce here in town or you're going to end up like a ghost town," Mayor Wilkey said.
The Wymores say it has been a challenge attracting skilled workers to a small town, but they say the biggest barrier to hiring more workers is sales. Their products are available at 200 stores across the country, including several in the Chicago-area. Find a list of those stores at http://www.spudsinc.com/#!retail/c1q9c .
The products are also available online at abesmarket.com.