The Short List

The August issue reports on the methods used to recruit and retain employees, a profile of Growth Energy's new CEO, new sulfur regulations and CVEC's 20th anniversary.
By Tom Bryan | July 26, 2016

This issue of EPM is largely dedicated to the acquisition and retention of terrific people. All together, this industry’s most valuable assets are not facilities that produce ethanol, but the men and women who run them. In “Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent,” on page 32, EPM Associate Editor Ann Bailey reports on the methods, resources and tools producers use to find and keep good employees. It’s no secret that ethanol plants use recruitment firms to secure top executives, but you’ll be intrigued by the process they use to identify, screen and select recruits at every level. Of course, the contest of finding great people is second only to the challenge of retaining them. We learn how ethanol plants keep people happy and engaged through workplace culture: team events, community engagement, open communication, goal setting and recognition. The result is lower turnover and higher organizational loyalty.

Growth Energy’s recent appointment of Emily Skor, the association’s new CEO, is a timely example of talent recruitment at its best, and a fortuitously good fit for this issue’s page-38 cover story. Skor represents a change for our industry. Not only is she the first woman to lead one of our national associations, but she’s also skippering a new strategy to win over consumers. In her keynote speech at the 2016 International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo in Milwaukee, Skor was clear about her directive. She believes consumers will ultimately embrace higher ethanol blends if they make a personal connection with their fuel purchase. She thinks promoting higher blends through social media—the world’s pervasive personalization lever—is critical to our industry’s growth. “We have to connect with consumers as individuals—on their terms, in their language, based on their concerns and priorities and experiences,” she said at the 32nd annual FEW (see “Skoring with Personal Connections” on page 38).

EPM Managing Editor Susanne Retka Schill turns our attention to ethanol’s regulatory realm in “Sulfur Compounded,” on page 44.  She reports on how an approaching set of EPA Tier 3 rules related to sulfur content in fuel will affect producers. Starting in January, plants must prove that their ethanol has 10 parts per million (ppm) or less sulfur content. That’s a big change from the current 30 ppm standard, but it shouldn’t be a problem. Retka Schill reports that ethanol rarely has more than 10 ppm sulfur, and the ethanol industry already has been meeting the new standard for years. Now, however, additional verification and paperwork requirements threaten to trip up unprepared but otherwise compliant plants.

Finally, we’re honored to chronicle Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co.’s recent celebration of two decades of production in “CVEC Marks 20 Years,” on page 46. In mid-June, the Benson, Minnesota ethanol plant held an event to mark the moment. In many ways, CVEC’s incredible success is also the result of visionary leadership and remarkable employee loyalty. The plant has been a virtual incubator of progressive ideas, technical aptitude and managerial excellence. Ultimately, the things CVEC has achieved, including what it’s done through RPMG, Glacial Grains and Guardian Energy, is mostly the result of its founders recruiting and hiring the right people, starting two decades ago.

Author: Tom Bryan
President & Editor in Chief