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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Cherokee to get lab facility

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Diane Young
There is absolutely no doubt that the lifeblood of Northwest Iowa, including, of course, Cherokee County, is agriculture and agriculture-related fields.

It may come as a surprise to some people, though, that there are not any quality laboratory facilities in the area that can test such things for area farmers as soil content, feedlot manure, groundwater, and wastewater. Samples have to be sent as far away as Omaha or Des Moines to get that testing done. Until now, that is.

Diane (Ducommun) Young grew up outside of Larrabee and graduated from Cherokee Washington High School in 1985. Diane has always had a love of science, agriculture and animals, and in 1991 she received a degree from Iowa State University in microbiology and chemistry, with a minor in animal science.

Her first job after graduation was as a chemist and plant microbiologist at the IBP Plant in Storm Lake, and she then worked as a Plant Microbiologist and Quality Mangaement person for Armour, Swift and Ecrich, a ConAgra plant.

At that point, Diane and her husband Nate, a fellow ISU grad who works for the Natural Resource Conservation Services, moved back to this area, and Diane worked as Quality Assurance Coordinator at the Harkers plant in Le Mars. She eventually added the duties of Purchasing and Marketing Manager before ending her Harkers employment after 11 1/2 years.

At that point, almost four years ago, Diane went to work for American Natural Soy in Cherokee, serving as their Quality Assurance Director, setting up their laboratory, as well as their Quality and Safety procedures.

Still, though, Young felt that she wanted to do something different - something, she says, "where (she) would be able to see the benefits" of her work and also be able to diversify more than she has been doing.

With that in mind, she looked for a building with enough room to set up a full-fledged laboratory, allowing her to provide a more geographically convenient place to provide the testing that farmers and other businesses require in order to operate their businesses.

She found such a building in the former Miller-Mac Insurance building on East Maple Street, owned by Tom Rutter and the late Tom Nelson. They sold her the building, and the Cherokee Area Economic Development Corporation granted her some business start-up money.

Diane has now left her full-time employment at American Natural Soy and, though she still provides some consultant services, her primary focus now is getting her new business - Foundation Analytical Laboratory, L.L.C. - up and running.

Among the things which will have to be accomplished before Young can open her doors are remodeling the back part of the building to accommodate the laboratories, which will require, among other things, sinks and the associated plumbing; and getting all the certifications she will need to operate the business.

Diane hopes to have at least two full-time employees hired when she starts the business, which at this time, looks like it will be in mid-January, 2009. Her 5-year goal for the business is to have 10 full-time microbiologists and chemists on staff.

Her prospective clients would be agri-businesses, including companies that sell feed and other ag-related items which require quality testing. They will also be able to analyze food ingredients in their labs, so anyone requiring this service would be another potential client.

One of Young's hopes for the business is to encourage young students to develop more of an interest in the sciences, and she plans on contacting area colleges about providing student interns to work in the lab during the summers. She says she already has two students lined up for this coming summer. Young also hopes to work with area high schools who have strong FFA programs, and get any of those students who are interested involved with the lab to some degree, too.

Young says she included the word "foundation" in the business name because she wants businesses to see her lab as a foundation to make decisions for their businesses, and hopes they view her business as "an extension of their own business."

Diane and Nate are the parents of son Zane, a 13-year-old student at the Cherokee Middle School.

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