Mary Anne Ketelsen to speak at manufacturing conference

Mary Anne Ketelsen is bringing positive changes to West Virginia Potato Chip Co., doing business as Mister Bee Potato Chips in Parkersburg.

As majority owner and president of West Virginia Potato Chip Co., Ketelsen is investing money on state-of-the-art equipment and planning to pursue federal government contracts to increase sales of Mister Bee chips. The company wants to produce potato chips for other companies, a co-packing arrangement, and is getting food grade certified.

Ketelsen said she recently spent $1.2 million for a state-of-the-art packaging system that will be “a game changer.” The equipment, scheduled to be operational by Jan. 1, will allow Mister Bee to pack 60 bags of potato chips per minute. The company is now packing five to eight nine-ounce bags of chips a minute.

Mister Bee has dedicated employees who want to see the company succeed, Ketelsen said. Twenty-four people are employed at the company.

“We are all excited and hope to keep Mister Bee around for many more years,” Ketelsen said.

Ketelsen, of Belpre, bought into Mister Bee in 2015 and took over operations and strategic planning in May of this year.

Ketelsen will be a keynote speaker at the Women & Technology Conference, hosted by TechConnect West Virginia, on Sept. 10 in Charleston. She will be joined on the panel by two other women who own manufacturing businesses: Heather Cyphert of Precision Tool/Progressive Industries and Angie Cowger of Custard Stand Chili.

Women comprise nearly one-third of the manufacturing industry workforce in the United States, said Anne Barth, executive director of TechConnect.

The conference will address women in the fields and careers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The event will encourage women to become involved in technology education and research, private enterprises, the public sector, investing and entrepreneurship.

“The number of STEM jobs to be filled is huge and will only keep growing,” Barth said. “Adding more women strengthens the talent pool and leads to better creativity, innovation and productivity.”

For more information on the conference, contact Anne Barth at anne@techconnectwv.org.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to be asked to speak to business leaders from across the state,” Ketelsen said. “Mister Bee Potato Chips represents an iconic West Virginia brand. Being asked to serve as a keynote speaker at the Women in Technology Conference provides us with the opportunity to communicate to a broader audience that West Virginia and specifically Mister Bee Potato Chips produces a quality product.

“Personally, it is nice to be recognized as a business leader and share with conference participants information that may assist them in building a successful business,” Ketelsen said.

Mister Bee, the only potato chip made in West Virginia, soon will be unveiling its eighth flavor, cheddar and sour cream, said Rob Graham, vice president of sales for Mister Bee Potato Chips. Mister Bee distributes its potato chips throughout West Virginia, local areas of Ohio and in the Ashland, Ky., area.

Mister Bee might add a production shift and employees early next year, Graham said.

Graham brought 600 bags of Mister Bee Potato Chips to the West Virginia birthday celebration — “A Taste of West Virginia” — on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on June 20. The hundreds of attendees enjoyed the local chips, and Graham said he made business connections at the event.

Ketelsen has 27 years of management experience with manufacturing companies American Cyanamid and Solvay, working in distribution, customer service and quality control. She later was manager of Welch Oil & Gas, owned and operated by her mother, Mary Welch of Parkersburg, before the company was sold.

Contact Paul LaPann at plapann@newsandsentinel.com

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