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Agrimarketing : May 2009 Supplement
04 AG BIZ PROFILE:16 Thinking Outside Box 5/4/09 3:22 PM Page 4 2009 NAMA AGRIBUSINESS LEADER OF THE YEAR INGENUITY,HARDWORKYIELDSSUCCESS T by Lynn Henderson, Editorial Director he executive offices of companies serving agricultural and ruralbasedmarkets are filledwith managerswhowere born and raised on farms. It has everything to dowith thework ethic and ingenuity thatwas instilled in themas youngsters. Aprime example is this year’sNational Agri-Marketing Association’s (NAMA) Agribusiness Leader of the Year LeonWestbrock, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the CHS Energy Division. Raised on a farminwestern Minnesota,Westbrock is one of seven children reared by parents whose formative yearswere during theDepression. “That rough period definitely left itsmark on them,”Westbrock says. “They were very leery about borrowing anymoney to expand their farming operation so they barely got by.We kids didn’t realize it then, but itwas a pretty tough time that we lived.” The family raised sheep, hogs, chickens,multiple crops and had a small dairy herd. “I attended a country school and therewere only three other kids inmy class,” Westbrock reports.Humble beginnings for amanwho is responsible for running the traditionally largest andmost profitable division for CHS. ABOUT CHS AND ENERGY Headquartered in the Twin City’s southeastern suburb of Inver GroveHeights,MN, CHS is the nation’s largest cooperative, owned by 1,000 affiliatedmember co-ops and 50,000 individual producers. Last year, the organization had over $32 billion in revenues, generating $803million in operating earnings. Itsmajor business units include Energy,Ag Business (including crop nutrients, grainmarketing, livestock feed and country retail operations), Processing (food and food ingredient manufacturing) and Business Solutions (insurance, financial and riskmanagement services). 4 Agri Marketing s May 2009 Leon and PattWestbrockwith the plaque Leon received commemorating his being named 2009 Agribusiness Leader of the Year. Last year, leveraging company financial strength amid tremendous industry volatility, the CHS Energy group had revenues of nearly $11.5 billion, netting $361million in operating earnings. Westbrock’s group is responsible for the operations of two refineries (one completely owned by CHS in Laurel,MT, and the other jointly ownedwithNational Cooperative Refinery Association inMcPherson, KS), 1,200miles of pipeline and ten terminals. The company skyrocketed to become the nation’s 72nd largest corporation in the Fortune 500, up from the 145th largest last year. CHS does business in all 50 states andmarkets grain inmore than 60 countries worldwide. CHSwas formed in 1998with the merger of Cenex andHarvest States. Other legacy firms include Farmers Union Central Exchange (Cenex), GTAand Farmland Industries’ energy assets (see “History,” page 8). Its products and activities include: • Sellsmore than three billion gallons of refined fuels, including gasoline and diesel. • One of the nation’s largest propane wholesaler/retailers. •Manufactures, packages and markets lubricants for all engines, fromboats and snowmobiles to heavy equipment and industrial machinery. • Suppliesmore than 1,600 branded retail petroleumoutlets, includingmore than 1,000 Cenex-identified convenience stores. •Has been blending andmarketing renewable fuels formore than 30 years.Of the 1,100 stations selling E85,more than 300 are Cenex stations. CHS also owns one of the nation’s largest private truck fleets, logging 35millionmiles annually. “CHSwas formed as a farm- ers’ co-op in themid-1930s,” Westbrock explains. “At that time, theywere searching for a reliable supply of fuel in rural areas and didn’t fully depend on themajor oil companies to provide it.” Along theway, the affiliated co-ops began expanding their services including purchasing grain, selling crop inputs and establishingwhatwe nowthink of as traditional full-service gas stations that provided fuel, tires, batteries, oil changes, repairs, etc. Several even built hardware stores. GETTING ROLLING Following a stint in theArmy, Westbrock graduated fromSt. Cloud (MN) University and began a teaching career in English. But his business instincts beckoned and he took the plunge, joining Cenex and spending a year in training at its headquarters before venturing out to manage a series of three ag co-ops. “Running those co-ops iswhen I really began figuring it out,” he says.