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Agrimarketing : April 2009
Westbrock Named Agribusiness Leader of theYear The National Agri-Marketing Association awarded Leon Westbrock, Executive Vice President and COO, Energy, CHS Inc., the distinction of 2009 Agribusiness Leader of the Year. The award was presented at the Opening General Session of the 2009 Agri-Marketing Conference, April 16, 2009, in Atlanta, Ga. LeonWestbrock has learned the energy business and developed his deep leadership skills from the ground up. Beginning with childhood on a 640-acre grain-and- dairy farm in western Minnesota, then adding a degree in English from St. Cloud State University, a tour in the U.S. Army and a few years of teaching junior and senior high school English, Leon discovered his calling in the cooperative system. Beginning as a marketing intern for what was then called CENEX in 1976, then moving through member cooperative management and many positions in the energy area, he has never forgotten the importance of understanding what the customer needs, then working to meet those needs with both company and customer interests in mind. Leon leads the multifaceted energy business of CHS Inc., a Fortune 200 company providing essential resources in energy, grains and foods. CHS is the nation’s largest member-owned business (cooper- ative) and runs the largest cooper- ative-owned energy business in the United States. He is responsible for refineries, pipelines and terminals, and sale of refined fuels (gasoline, gasoline-ethanol blends, diesel fuel, biodiesel), lubricants and propane primarily marketed under the Cenex® brand through more than 1,600 Cenex-branded retailers in 22 states. Leon combines excellent people management with strategic capital investment and a farsighted approach to building the energy business within a rapidly changing world. As a regional energy brand, the Cenex brand has neither the budget nor the exposure to compete easily with big oil companies such as BP, Exxon/ Mobil, Pennzoil and Chevron. Research showed consumers had low, unaided awareness of the Cenex brand and misperceptions about the scope of products marketed under the brand. And independent convenience store owners didn’t realize the opportu- nities available by partnering with CHS and the Cenex brand. Leon understood this challenge and encouraged his team tomeet it head on. The unprecedented Cenex Guy campaign was developed to bring personality and relevance to the brand. While the budget was still quite small compared to competing company spends, the results were remarkable. 24 AgriMarketing s April 2009 With many successes in manage- ment, leadership and anticipating trends in the market under his belt, one of Leon’s most notable achievements was his role in helping to forge a joint venture between CHS and rival Farmland Industries to combine energy marketing platforms and resources. While difficult to establish and largely unexpected in the industry, this move was critical to the long- term viability of the Cenex brand. Leon’s peers praise his commitment to focusing on the big picture, delegating and demanding the very best from his team and treating his staff with respect and trust. A passionate and inspiring speaker, he often shares his thought-provoking observations in addresses at industry events and meetings. At CHS, Leon’s visionary talent has led to innovations in long-term refinery profitability, the devel- opment of “green” products and initiatives as well as streamlining the delivery and availability of propane and fuel in rural areas. His expertise in the energy industry has helped state and federal officials tackle tough issues involving energy and agribusiness. Leon gives willingly of his time so that leaders and legislators have a clear perspective of energy issues. Leon serves on several boards in the energy business industry and is also very involved in church, civic and academic organizations within his community.
May 2009 Supplement