Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Premier 1 has grown in leaps and bounds this year. A warehouse opened in early 2020 and a road that completed paving last month are indicative of the company’s success.
CEO Ben Rothe said demand for the sheep and livestock supply company boomed during the pandemic.
“We saw a rapid rise in sales because people were stuck at home,” he said. “They were interested in things like backyard chickens, gardening, hobby farming. So we saw our order volume really increase.”
The sudden surge was more than anyone could have expected.
“We saw quite a bit of growth,” Rothe said. “Over 50% of what we’d been doing we saw in a single month. It even spiked up to 80% some of those months … You can’t plan for that sort of thing, what the pandemic brought.”
While its newest building started as an essential storage expansion, Rothe said it became a work space during the company’s unforeseen leap in popularity.
“What we ended up using it for and what we had planned to use it for were two very different things,” he said. “We had our front office employees packing boxes, we had our families packing boxes, and we were just spread out in there. Once that sort of settled down, we had time to properly put in the equipment and the warehouse racking that we had always intended.”
The new facility will allow the business to take on more employees. One condition of a Department of Transportation grant to help fund the road paving project was a commitment from Premier to add 25 jobs over three years. Rothe said the business had already grown from 50 to 65 employees since signing that agreement.
“I think we can support up to 100 employees at this facility at the size we have now,” he said. “If we outgrow that, we’ll have a different set of questions, but it will definitely take us a couple years to get there … I have room to grow.”
Premier’s true pride and at this moment is a newly paved road to its location. After a year and a half setting up a cost-sharing agreement with the county and arranging a $250,000 grant with the DOT, the business hosted a ribbon-cutting for the $1.6 million project’s completion in July.
“We used it as an excuse to invite people out to Premier and see what we do here,” Rothe said. “We’re sort of out of town, out of sight, out of mind. We are part of the Washington County community, and we looked around and thought this might be a good excuse to invite dignitaries from the community as well as folks that are just curious about us.”
Rothe expressed his gratitude for everyone involved in the road paving process, especially former Washington Economic Development Group Director David Collins, who since has died.
“David Collins gets credit for spearheading the road project,” he said. “He brought together the resources and connections to take an idea and make it reality. He deserves a lot of credit.”