Jerry and Debbie Ivy. Jerry Ivy is the CEO of Auto-Chlor System, opening this year in Kent. The California couple last year gave $50 million to Iowa State University, the alma mater of Jerry Ivy. COURTESY PHOTO, Iowa State University

Jerry and Debbie Ivy. Jerry Ivy is the CEO of Auto-Chlor System, opening this year in Kent. The California couple last year gave $50 million to Iowa State University, the alma mater of Jerry Ivy. COURTESY PHOTO, Iowa State University

Dishwashing equipment company coming to Kent run by CEO who made $50 million college donation

California-based Auto-Chlor System to open in north Kent

There’s a company coming to Kent whose CEO and his wife last year committed $50 million to the Iowa State University College of Business.

Northern California-based Auto-Chlor System, which provides dishwashing equipment, cleaning solutions and service on the equipment for the restaurant and hospitality industries, plans to open an office and warehouse late this year at the northeast corner of South 196th Street and 68th Avenue South, aka West Valley Highway.

Jerry Ivy, president and CEO, and his wife Debbie Ivy, in September committed $50 million to Iowa State, which named its business school after the California couple. Jerry Ivy earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial administration from Iowa State in 1953.

The company services more than 75,000 customers in 40 states. It began as a commercial dishwashing company and now has about 120 service locations, including Washington sites in Seattle, Fife and Everett.

”We are splitting operations of our current Seattle branch location, so this will be a new location for us, but servicing parts of our current customer base,” said Debbie Ivy in an email. “Initially, we will have about 20 employees and look forward to growing.”

The company predominantly serves restaurants, she said. Auto-Chlor System will occupy a portion of the new 38,000-square-foot facility to be built on the land where WinEstimator, Inc., used to operate at 19450 68th Ave. S. Crews started this month to demolish the old 15,000-square-foot building in preparation for new construction.

“Our Kent project is slated to be completed late this year,” Debbie Ivy said.

Construction and building permit applications are under review by city officials.

Auto-Chlor began in 1938 in Memphis, Tenn., according to its website, and will celebrate its 80th anniversary this year. Founder James D. Robinson used chlorine as a food-contact surface sanitizer, which led to his invention of a dispenser that automatically mixes chlorine with water. In 1954, the company began manufacturing a patented low temperature dishwashing machine that utilized chlorine as a sanitizer and quickly became a leading commercial dishwasher company.

The Ivy’s gift to Iowa State is the largest in the school’s history, according to the college website. Jerry Ivy grew up in Minnesota. The Ivys and their staff grew Auth-Chlor into a national brand.

“Debbie and I value a strong education and feel that Iowa State University and the College of Business provide an exceptional experience for its students,” Jerry Ivy said in a college media release about the donation. “We hope this gift will play a role in preparing our next generation of business leaders, and we want to help support students and faculty who will make a difference today, and far into the future.”

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