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Economic Development is . . . (increasing the flow) of capital through the community and reducing its leakage.

A risk well taken

Deep within a forest a little turtle began to climb a tree.

After hours of effort he reached the top, jumped into the air waving his front legs and crashed to the ground.

After recovering, he slowly climbed the tree again, jumped, and fell to the ground. The turtle tried again and again while a couple of birds sitting on a branch watched his sad efforts.

Finally, the female bird turned to her husband. “Dear,” she chirped, “I think it’s time to tell him he’s adopted.”

John Baugh from Waco, Texas started as an A&P stock boy at the age of 13. With perseverance he worked his way up to be store manager.  In 1946 John took a big risk with a spark of ambition and left his job as the store manager to step out and start his own company. He began by delivering frozen peaches and strawberries to bakeries, cafeterias and hospitals.

It wasn’t easy or glamorous; he did all the sales while making all the deliveries, while his wife, Eula Mae, managed the books at night. No couple was more devoted to one another, to their church, and to a company than Eula Mae and John. From humble beginnings, they began to achieve success in business. They earned respect from peers and devotion from employees. They were known and loved as a couple of impeccable character and kindness.

The two person Zero Foods Company continued to grow. It grew and grew and grew to be larger than both FedEx and Deere & Company. The little two person company Zero Foods in 1969 joined with eight other companies to form Sysco (for SYstems and Services COmpany.)

Yes, the same Sysco that has invested $36.2M in Iowa Premium right here in Iowa. Yes, that Sysco the global leader in selling and distributing food equipment and supplies to restaurants. Yes that Sysco that operates 194 locations throughout world. Yes the same Sysco that has 50,300 employees who support its daily operations.

Leaving that job as a grocery store manager seemed crazy in 1946, but it looks like a wise decision now. The loving couple that took a chance both died in 2007 within six months of one another. At the memorial employees talked of their humility and compassion. John knew the names of employees and their children, said Jack D. Carlson, a former Sysco executive; “He was more comfortable as a greeter, opening car doors and welcoming people into the church, than as a leader,” Carlson said. “But he was a great leader.”

Thanks John and Eula Mae for taking that risk in 1946. We here in Iowa appreciate all that you have done and we will do our best to keep the entrepreneurial fires burning.


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