It was a different time and St. Joseph was a different place. In 1917, with the smell of livestock in the air, two men in three rooms of the Stockyards Exchange Building formed the Anchor Serum Company.
True Davis and E.A. Poe produced hog cholera serum, which was revolutionary in what we now call the animal health industry.
“Throughout the years, there has always been a story of innovation coming out of St. Joseph,” said Dr. Albrecht Kissel, President of Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc.
Philips Roxane acquired Anchor in 1959 and Boehringer became the owner in 1981. Boehringer itself started as a family-owned company in 1885 in Ingelheim, Germany.
“Today we celebrate 100 years of animal health in St. Joseph,” Kissel said at a ceremony in September. “Now we are the second largest animal health company in the world.”
The St. Joseph facility is the largest animal health employer in the Midwest’s Animal Health Corridor and the largest manufacturer of BI animal health products worldwide. More than 1,000 employees and visitors recently took part in the anniversary celebration on the company’s 60-acre campus.
While the company is always looking to the future (officials announced it is increasing production capacity in St. Joseph as it moves products from its former Iowa facility), it is also anchored in the past. An anchor from 1954 remains on part of the BI campus.
“St. Joseph has played an important role in the last 100 years,” Kissel said. “We’re excited to see what’s to come in the next 100.”
He said the company broke ground in 1996 for biological facilities and has invested hundreds of millions further in manufacturing, administrative and warehouse capacities.
“What you manufacture here goes to more than 50 countries in the world,” he said. “What you make here is the largest selling vaccine in the world.”
Veronique Kodjo, head of global animal health operations, said 1.2 million doses of vaccines are made, packaged and distributed from here each year.
“Your vaccines are among the most trusted by vets in the world,” she told employees. “We have a clear ambition to become the No. 1 animal health business in the world. St. Joseph’s future is to become the worldwide center of excellence and a state-of-the-art facility.”
Also anchored in St. Joseph are some employees who have been employees since Anchor Serum days. One of those is Dave Heinje, who is now head of commercial at BI, but started at the Stockyards building with Anchor. Kissel joked that of the company’s 100 years, Heinje had been there for half.
“It’s been a great ride here,” the 50-year employee said. “The change in technology has just been unbelievable. I started in the Stockyards bleeding hogs.”
His advice to younger employees?
“Keep your nose to the grindstone,” he said. “This company will invest in you.”
The company also invests in its community. Employees who work with different city causes were able to introduce the programs and donate $10,000 each to Second Harvest Community Food Bank, the Animal Shelter, Noyes Home for Children and Hillyard Technical Center.
Lt. Gov. Mike Parson sent a letter, which was read aloud to the crowd.
“This is a great day for St. Joseph and Boehringer Ingelheim,” he said. “To be in business a century is not an easy feat to accomplish…this is a continued sign that agriculture and economic development go hand in hand in the state of Missouri.”