Cook bacon in large pot over medium heat 8 minutes or until crisp. Drain on paper towels; reserve bacon drippings in pot.
Add onion and celery to pot; cook and stir 3 to 4 minutes or until almost translucent. Increase heat to high; add 1/2 cup of the broth, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from bottom of pot. Add reserved corn cobs, remaining 1 1/2 cups broth, potatoes, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. Cover; reduce heat to low.
Simmer 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender; uncover.