In 1980 an Italian-American entrepreneur from St. Paul, Minnesota, Leonard Gasparre, started Noodles by Leonardo in Cando, North Dakota. "He proved value-added agriculture works," says Bob Denison, editor and publisher, Towner County Record Herald.
Gasparre built the country's first integrated mill/pasta plant. The firm purchases milling-quality durum wheat grown in surrounding counties and mills it into semolina, pasta's main ingredient. The plant then converts the semolina into 35 different pasta products and packages them for shipping throughout the United States.
Adding value to North Dakota durum wheat has worked for Noodles by Leonardo, as well as for Cando. The company began with 90 workers and today employs nearly 300. Demand for its pasta has surpassed the Cando plant's capacity, and in fall 1992 a second plant opened in Devils Lake.
Noodles by Leonardo stabilized the Cando economy during the difficult 1980s when North Dakota agriculture suffered, Denison says. Cando's population increased from 1,496 in 1980 to 1,564 in 1990, making it one of the few North Dakota rural communities to gain population in the 1980s.
The surrounding area has also benefited. The area's farmers now have an additional source of demand for their milling-quality durum wheat, says Dave Speare, plant manager. Noodles by Leonardo also provides those rural workers with a source for employment. Most of its workers live within 26 miles of the plant, but some come from as far away as 60 miles, Speare says.