Mysterious company, meaningful employer

Published 12:08 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2013

—This feature originally appeared in Progress 2013. Get a copy at the Austin Daily Herald office, 310 Second St. NE.

IBI Data’s business is complex, but it is consistently ranked as one of the leading employers in the state

The huge, white building that shows “IBI Data” on its front has sat on the north end of Brownsdale for years, yet many people are clueless about what’s inside.

Is Iblings Bergstrom Industries somehow tied to a farm that sits on the same property, or is it some type of agricultural marketing company? The truth is, people who work there can’t explain it very well, either.

“It’s very difficult to tell people what we do,” said Dagna Simmons, one of several program managers and nearly 50 employees inside the building.

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IBI Data is essentially a middle man for large food production companies like Kellogg’s or General Mills, and small-time food service providers like restaurants. The company owned by Katherine Harte started in Chicago in 1986 and moved onto Harte’s property near Brownsdale where it processes coupons and distributes checks to companies. It houses food samples and sends them to clients from its 123,000-square-foot facility. It designs promotional banners, brochure display cases, and much of the work companies don’t have the time or means to do.

That may not be entirely clear, but one thing is: IBI Data is a great place to work. There’s a Nintendo Wii, exercise machines, a reading room, huge breakroom, walking trails and plenty of employee incentives.

In 2012, it was rated one of the 100 best companies to work for in Minnesota by Minnesota Business Magazine, continuing from its track record from 2009 and 2010 as one of the Workforce Development Inc.’s best places to work in southeastern Minnesota.

“I think the biggest thing is we definitely try to be very flexible and accommodate people’s schedules,” said Geoff Smith, vice president.

Both Smith and Simmons have been with the company for more than 20 years. Simmons’ husband is battling cancer. Throughout that, Simmons has had to take a lot of time off. People are OK with that.

“I can’t say enough good about being able to do what I needed to do and when I needed to do it,” she said. “There was never a question of, ‘Why are you taking so much time off?’”

Even newcomers seem comfortable with the company. Cynthia Xicara is one of the freshest faces at IBI Data, where she does data entry with others who have stuck with the company for 20 plus years. She, too, likes the flexibility and the learning curve.

And IBI Data’s services are ever changing to meet customer needs. That added variety keeps Simmons on her toes.

“I find it very interesting and at times very challenging,” Simmons said about new projects and problem solving for clients. “It hasn’t become boring to me at all. And I don’t get up in the morning and go, ‘Ugh, I have to go to work.’”


IBI Data awards and accolades:

•2012 AIB Superior Rating

•Minnesota Business Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work for in the state

•Promotional Product Industries’ PPAI Gold Pyramid Award

•Certified Women’s Business Enterprise

•2012 Jade Team: Relay for Life

•2010 Woman Business Owner of the Year

•2010 and 2009 Best Places to Work in Southeast Minnesota award by Workforce Development Inc.

•2007 Employer of Choice award: Best Employee Retention Program