This year’s most-celebrated
small-business owner in the country might hail from Carroll County.
The Small Business Administration named
Ben Puck, founder and president of Puck Custom Enterprises in
Manning, as the “Iowa Small Business Person of the Year.” Puck
will go on to Washington, D.C., during the week of April 30 —
National Small Business Week — and is in the running for the
National Small Business Person of the Year award.
“We’re keeping our fingers
crossed,” Manning Mayor Harvey Dales said during a Carroll County
city roundtable Tuesday evening. “Just going to D.C., I think, is
pretty good recognition in itself.”
Puck started his business in 1979 with
his brother, pumping and hauling liquid manure and eventually
designing new equipment to improve manure application. He’s
received five equipment patents through the years.
Puck Custom Enterprises has grown to
employ about 60 people.
“Puck and his company’s
contributions to the community of Manning are significant,” a news
release from the Small Business Administration says. “The growth of
his business has fueled the type of employee growth that’s vital to
rural communities like Manning.”
Puck has described his business as a
combination of innovation and efficiency — the need for
more-efficient manure application has driven the business forward.
“I like to say that we love
technology, but technology is driven through efficiency,” he said
during the opening of PCE’s new facility in 2010. “We are not a
technology leader, we are an efficiency leader.”
Also during the opening, he described
the manure-application business as “a baby yet to walk,” noting
it has expanded most just in the past few decades.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad visited PCE in
2014 and noted the manure-application industry’s relationship to
“This is really the future of
livestock production,” Branstad said. “It has to be done in
conjunction with what you are doing.”
In 2015, PCE opened a retail storefront
in Osik, Croatia, a product of a chance meeting between PCE’s
general manager, Jeremy Puck, and Croatian entrepreneur Robert Spajic
at Iowa State University several years before. Spajic and fellow
entrepreneur Darko Bilic saw an opportunity to use Eastern Europe’s
growing market for swine technology — and they identified PCE as a
“People are the only reason anything
ever really happens,” Jeremy Puck said. “The right people wanted
to do something out of the ordinary.”
There are more than 26 million small
businesses in the United States, according to the news release. And
Small Business Week is all about them.
“Since its establishment in 1963, the
highlight of this annual tradition is the presentation of awards
which focus on the outstanding contributions of small-business
persons and champions at the district, state and national level,”
the release states.
Gaylin Ranniger, president of First
National Bank of Manning, nominated Puck for the award.
“Aside from the
economic impact he’s made, Puck supports local churches, schools,
businesses, charities and other community organizations,” the
release states. “Whether it’s through monetary contributions or
contributions of time — such as taking a leadership role in the
IKM-Manning School’s STEM program — Puck, his family and PCE have
been invaluable to Manning’s efforts to remain a thriving rural