Sept. 22--You probably don't know any of the names of the experts at the St. Cloud State University Food Microbiology Symposium. But they're all-stars when it comes to food safety research in the United States.
And the reason they came here for that event last October, and will make it an annual occurrence next month, is because St. Cloud is home to Microbiologics, one of the world's largest manufacturers of quality control microorganisms used to prevent the spread of foodborne diseases.
Microbiologics dates back more than four decades, long before Brad Goskowicz became CEO. He rocketed from chief marketing officer to president to his current position after joining the company in 2009. He thinks it doesn't matter whether you've been in business for one year or 40 -- you had better be innovative if you're going to be successful.
Goskowicz originated the idea to create and organize the symposium after similar programs stopped at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and Kansas State. With few such events held nationally to begin with, he saw an opportunity to gain exposure for his company and the community.
"Food in the Midwest is a big industry," Goskowicz said. "A lot of the big companies, like Cargill and General Mills, have their headquarters not far away. So this was a chance to get those people and representatives from our industry and regulatory people all in the same place at the same time. There are no other (symposia) right now that I'm aware of that are focused on food microbiology."
The first St. Cloud State Food Microbiology Symposium was last October. Its goal was to have 50 or 60 participants. It drew more than 125. The second, set for Oct. 6-8, expects to produce a bigger turnout.
"Microbiologics definitely breathed life into it," said Kristin Pederson Gulrud, an associate professor in the biological sciences department at SCSU. "They were involved in everything from the planning to the execution. They had ideas for topics and helped with an introduction to speakers. But the best part is their commitment to making it work. They allowed us to relax and be stable in getting this going and they're involved in long-term planning for it, too."
As a result, Microbiologics was selected as this year's Innovation Award winner among established businesses by the Greater St. Cloud Development Corp. The company will be recognized at this year's Innovation Summit, which is Thursday at River's Edge Convention Center.
"We had some great applicants, but the food summit really promotes the region," said Brian Myres, managing vice president at Capital One and a member of the Innovation Awards selection committee with the GSDC. "The new (Integrated Science Engineering Laboratory Facility) at St. Cloud State is going to make it even better and, to get the types of people we're talking about domiciled in St. Cloud, it's a great example of a public-private partnership that works."
Dr. David Acheson, former associate commissioner for foods with the Food and Drug Administration, returns for his second year as a keynote speaker. Michael Robach, vice president of corporate food safety and regulatory affairs for Cargill, will lead one of the sessions. And there will be an industry safety panel with similar officials from General Mills and Land O' Lakes.
Gulrud, who previously worked for the Minnesota Department of Health in the area of food outbreaks, also will speak, and there will be a workshop in the ISELF building.
"Of course, it's good for us, as well," said Goskowicz, whose company is a platinum sponsor of the event -- meaning Microbiologics donates more than $10,000 to make it happen. "It gives us a chance to showcase what we do and we'll run a lot of those people through our building, too. And we've got 86 employees. The fact that this is right here in town means more than a few will be able to get over there and take in a few sessions. But it's more than that. We want our competitors to come because we're all pursuing the same goal of making the world safer and healthier."