Vending machine company to vend office supplies

You’ve heard of vending machines that dispense snacks and hot coffee, but what about office supplies and hospital scrubs?

The Wittern Group, a vending machine manufacturer based in Clive, Iowa, hopes to expand its research and development efforts to bring new vending technology to the market. Heidi Chico, co-owner and CEO, says new “controlled dispensing solutions” are being sought by a variety of industries, from healthcare to retail to maintenance and repair.

“We’re breaking the barriers and moving on to bigger and better markets,” she said. “For that we need to sort of reinvest in the future and make machines smarter.”

Wittern is seeking tax credits from the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s (IEDA’s) High Quality Jobs Program for its efforts to reinvent the vending machine. The company plans a $17,75-million expansion that includes hiring three new engineers.

The Clive City Council voted unanimously Thursday to be the sponsor organization for the company’s application. It does not require a financial match from the city.

IEDA will consider Wittern’s application later this month.

In order to qualify for the program, companies must meet certain wage thresholds when bringing in new jobs. Wittern has proposed hiring a lead engineer at $110,011 per year, a software engineer at $94 993 per year, and a mechanical engineer at $79 996 per year.

Chico says the company will still design and manufacture traditional food vending machines. But there has been a demand from companies looking to manage inventory and control costs, and Wittern believes that can happen through vending.

“It’s really a new market for us and an exciting market because it’s in its infancy,” she adds. “And so the opportunities are huge.”

The Wittern Group is celebrating its 85th year in business, 60 of which have been in Clive. Chico says the 350 000 square-foot building will not expand with this investment.

The company currently has 422 employees. It will take three years to complete the expansion.

By Kim Norvell for

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