February 23, 2019

Built to Last: Looking Forward to the Next 100 Years

MaxYield100GradientHow do you create a company that stands the test of time? Make strategic business decisions. Overcome adversity. Repeat.

While it’s never that simple, the principles of adapting and overcoming drive any business that joins the exclusive group of 100-year companies, including MaxYield Cooperative.

“Celebrating 100 years in business is a tremendous milestone, whether it’s a Fortune 500 company, a farm, or an ag cooperative,” said Keith Heim, MaxYield’s CEO. “For MaxYield, it means staying relevant in a world that continues to change fast.”

Staying relevant reflects the goals that motivated the first stockholders to meet at 2 p.m. on April 6, 1915, to create the new West Bend Elevator Company. For generations, the cooperative has allowed members to band together and achieve things that they couldn’t do individually, from purchasing coal at a competitive price to providing a viable market for grain.

While the cooperative’s founding principles haven’t changed, clients’ needs have evolved dramatically through the years, Heim noted. By January 1943, the Algona Upper Des Moines newspaper reported that a meeting was held at the West Bend Elevator Company to urge local farmers to grow more flax in support of the war effort. In fact, the state of Iowa was asked to increase flax production by 28%.

Adapting to changing times has meant more than growing new crops during the cooperative’s 100-year history. “The cooperative had a close call in the 1990s,” Heim said. “Weathering major challenges is not uncommon, however, for any company that has lasted 100 years.”

Honoring the past, focusing on the future
To celebrate MaxYield’s 100th birthday, the cooperative hosted barbecues this summer in Algona, Belmond, Britt, Emmetsburg, Lakota, Spencer, and West Bend. “We had excellent attendance and thank you for your continued support of MaxYield,” Heim said.

This support will remain vital to MaxYield in the future, he added. MaxYield is embracing the fast-paced world of precision ag, where the data revolution continues to evolve and modern seed technology is breaking yield barriers while increasing the need for efficient grain-handling systems.

MaxYield will operate in a much different world than the cooperative’s founders experienced in 1915, yet some things never change. “We remain focused on providing the solutions you need to stay competitive,” Heim said. “We look forward to helping your cooperative succeed for the next 100 years.”

Giving Back: Tanks of Thanks Celebrates Good Deeds

There are lots of people who go above and beyond to serve our local communities. It’s about time they get a little something back.

“That’s what Tanks of Thanks is all about,” said Chad Besch, MaxYield Cooperative’s energy team leader. “It’s a way to say thank you to people who are doing a lot of good and don’t do it for the glory.”

A number of people throughout MaxYield’s trade territory have been selected to receive a $50 Cenex® gift card that can be used to buy any item of their choice, including fuel, at Cenex stores. MaxYield is proud to partner with Cenex, which funds this unique reward program.

“Our communities are filled with teachers, librarians, fire chiefs, food pantry volunteers, mayors, and many others who devote an amazing amount of time to serve others,” Besch said. “Many also donate money out of their own pocket to support programs that benefit the community. Tanks of Thanks honors these folks who go above and beyond the call of duty.”

Since the program started in 2012, Tanks of Thanks has recognized more than 14,000 people and given away more than $400,000 in free merchandise. Giving back to the community is important to Cenex and MaxYield, which owns and operates Cenex stores in West Bend, Whittemore, and Fostoria.

“Cenex stores are your hometown convenience stores,” said Besch, who added that Cenex offers home-grown biofuels.

Nominate someone you know
While MaxYield nominates Tanks of Thanks recipients, you can too. If you have friends, family, or neighbors who are doing good in the community, visit www.cenex.com/tanks-of-thanks, and briefly describe why they deserve a Tank of Thanks. The process is easy, and anyone can be nominated for any act of kindness—big or small.

Local Tanks of Thanks Winners
Algona area
Chuck Bell
Mary Hannover
Erby Shipler
Linda Vaught

Britt area
Jerry Christensen
Allan Doughan
Chet Eisenman
Don & Kay Kopacek
Bev Nelson
Paul Smith

Emmetsburg area
Howard Argabright
Sheryl Darling
Myrna Heddinger
Jeff Morey
Dick Zwart

Fostoria area
Sandy Alexander
Cecilia Barber
Kris Johnson
Florence Kramer
Brian Peck
Jerry Peterson
Mary Smith

West Bend area
Diane Dahlhauser
Craig Olson
Protein Resources
Darla Winklehorst
Loren Winklehorst
Doug Wirtz

Whittemore area
Eric Goodman
Sandy Long
Bob Meyer
Joy Metzger
Gary Person
James Zinnel

MaxYield Co-op Holds 101st Annual Meeting

MaxYield Cooperative® held its 101st Annual Meeting Thursday, December 17th at the Community Center in Britt, IA.

Board chairman Howard Haas of Algona called the meeting to order at 10:00 a.m.

During the meeting, MaxYield CFO Susan Post discussed the financial results of the cooperative. Highlights of the audited financial report for the fiscal year ending July 31, 2015 included local earnings of $925,273 and total earnings reaching $4.2 million.

Haas provided the membership an update on recent capital improvements across the cooperative, including grain storage projects in Mallard and Fostoria and new LP Gas storage south of Britt.

CEO Keith Heim discussed with members MaxYield’s retirement of preferred stock, the cooperative’s improved financial condition and its emphasis to improve facilities and equipment.

Board secretary Eric Marchand of Britt announced the results of the director election. Barry Anderson of Gillette Grove, Ron Rouse from Curlew and Howard Haas of Algona were reelected to serve three year terms.

More information about MaxYield can be found at www.MaxYieldCoop.com or www.FromTheField.com.

Moving Beyond a World of $7 Corn

Jim Wirtz 1By Jim Wirtz, MaxYield board member

A lot was on my mind as I harvested my crop near West Bend this fall, from memories of my son to hopes for high yields. I’m grateful this is one of the better corn crops I’ve harvested since I started farming in 1977.

Like any farmer, I’ll need those bushels, especially with the way commodity prices have dropped in the last year. This new economic climate has affected all our businesses, from the farm to the co-op. It’s also why MaxYield’s 2015 fiscal year results came as no surprise. With the days of $7 corn behind us, tighter margins have prompted farmers to cut back on fertilizer and other inputs.

As a retired ag lender, I’ve seen how these cycles in the farm economy affect the local economy. Farmers are good about stimulating the local economy when they have the money. When the rally in ag prices took off in 2008 and gained momentum through 2013-2014, farmers upgraded a lot of infrastructure. So did MaxYield, plus we strengthened our balance sheet.

Working together is success
As we go through challenging economic conditions, I’m glad MaxYield has excellent team members working on our behalf. It’s not just a job to them. They take pride in our cooperative and go above and beyond to serve.

I also appreciate my fellow MaxYield board members, who work hard to keep MaxYield on a path to success. Serving on the board gives you a whole new appreciation for MaxYield, which has grown from humble beginnings in 1915 to a multi-million-dollar business that covers a large portion of northern Iowa.

I encourage you to run for MaxYield’s board. Serving on the board is an enjoyable experience that teaches you a lot about how the cooperative works. It’s a much different perspective when you’re inside looking out, rather than outside looking in.

That’s also why communication with the board is always appreciated. If you have a question or a concern about MaxYield, contact me, or let any of the other board members know. Also, I invite you to attend MaxYield’s annual meeting at the Community Center in Britt on Dec. 17. This is a great opportunity to stay connected with your cooperative.

We appreciate your support and are glad you choose to do business with MaxYield. As we celebrate MaxYield’s 100th birthday and look to the future, I’m reminded of Henry Ford, who said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

 

 

The Secret is Not to Stop

20140514_maxyield_292 (681x1024)By Keith Heim, CEO

There’s a story about an old farmer who wasn’t known for his progressive methods, yet he managed to make a successful career out of farming. As he looked back on his life, he chalked his success up to one simple fact. “The secret is not to stop,” he said.

This kind of persistence is vital to success. It’s especially important during a year like 2015, when the economic climate became much more challenging in agriculture. This year also highlights why a business needs a solid foundation and a game plan.

As we look back on MaxYield’s 2015 fiscal year, your cooperative’s earnings were down compared to previous years. We still achieved what we set out to accomplish, though, from paying down debt to upgrading assets.

Here are some of the highlights:
• MaxYield showed $925,000 in local earnings and total earnings of more than $5 million. This was our lowest local earnings year since 2007. Lower commodity prices during the year slowed the ag economy. MaxYield also recorded lower fertilizer applications. I’m hopeful we’ll see more fertilizer applications in 2016, however, due to higher 2015 yields and the likelihood that farmers won’t be willing to lower soil nutrient levels.

• Based on the last fiscal year’s financials, the board approved $807,000 in patronage for 2015, with 40% of that allocation paid in cash.
• In addition, the board approved passing about one half of MaxYield’s domestic production activities deduction (DPAD) to members. We passed this through in the form of a tax deduction totaling $2.112 million. Members can use this DPAD as a 2015 tax deduction on their individual returns. When the 40% cash patronage and the cash value of the DPAD pass-through are combined, that’s more than $1 million in cash value to the membership. I believe that’s a success story.

• In September, the board approved retiring the oldest outstanding year of previously allocated patronage at face value. The board also approved $200,000 in cash for the second discounted equity offering. The same two equity groups used last year will be eligible for the discounted equity program this year. Information will be mailed to members in late November following harvest. Members will have until early 2016 to choose whether to participate.

• MaxYield invested $6 million during the last fiscal year in equipment, rolling stock, and facilities throughout the company, including two grain storage additions. We didn’t acquire any term debt to make these investments.

• The board approved and paid $875,000 for the retirement of previously allocated patronage.

• We retired $3.1 million of term debt during fiscal year 2015. At the end of fiscal 2015, MaxYield’s balance sheet showed just under $29 million of working capital, term debt of $15.5 million, and local equity of more than $36 million, resulting in the lowest local leverage ratio in years.

• MaxYield’s retained savings total more than $38 million, up from retained savings of negative $122,000 on July 31, 1997. That’s a great indicator of progress.

Going forward, your cooperative remains a financially solid company. We know the secret is not to stop. That’s why MaxYield’s board will continue to pursue a balanced approach of upgrading assets, retiring term debt, and retiring previously allocated patronage.

On behalf of all of us at MaxYield, we appreciate your support and look forward to working with you in 2016.

 

MaxYield All-Star Team: Cody Ostendorf

20150504_maxyield_018 (681x1024)As we continue to celebrate our 100 year anniversary, we look back at some of the folks that make our company great…including our All-Star team award winners: 

From his internship in 2010 to his promotion to agronomy specialist, Cody Ostendorf has come a long way in a short time, and that’s good news for MaxYield clients.

“Providing agronomy solutions is a priority for me,” said Cody, who is based in Belmond. “I want to help provide the expertise and products to help clients in this area maximize their yield potential.”

Cody first got connected with MaxYield when he was completing his agricultural business degree with an agronomy minor at Iowa State University.

When Cody joined MaxYield full time in 2011, he was based in Meservey and worked closely with Jon Kaduce, a MaxYield agronomy specialist. Also, the two years he spent at the seed warehouse in Garner were invaluable to helping him become an agronomy specialist in 2013.

“I needed to understand MaxYield’s operations better so I can help our clients get the solutions they need,” said Cody, who handled many seed treatment jobs and learned the co-op agronomy business from the ground up.

Seeing the world through the clients’ eyes
Cody was no stranger to agriculture, since he grew up on a farm near Meservey. This has been a plus in his role as agronomy specialist. “I’ve known a lot of the growers in the area for years,” said Cody, who enjoys seeing the seasons change and watching the crops grow. “I also know the ground around here, which helps me make recommendations for clients.”

Working closely with clients is appealing to Cody, who also likes the unique role of an agronomist. “It’s like a CSI investigation—there’s something you’re trying to diagnose, and you need to spend some time in the field to see if it’s a disease, nutrient deficiency, or something else.”

Cody also appreciates the new fertilizer complex at Belmond, which allows the team to provide full agronomy services to clients in the region. This is also enhancing SciMax Solutions, which continues to grow in the East Area. “There’s a lot of excitement among growers about the new fertilizer facility in Belmond, which is helping us provide better, faster service,” Cody said.

Being able to see the world through the clients’ eyes is the key to supplying this service, Cody added. “Farmers have so much going on, from finding the right crop protection products to managing herbicide resistance. When I help them develop a plan, I take economics into consideration and give them options to fit their needs.”

It takes a team
Delivering these solutions takes a team. “I enjoy the people I work with, because we share the same goal of thinking about the client first and helping each other out,” Cody said. “They aren’t just team members to me. They are friends.”

Cody was humbled to be named to the All Star Team. “It’s a huge honor, since there are many great team members at MaxYield. One of the biggest compliments I’ve gotten is from clients who say it looks like MaxYield is a good place to work. I feel this way and love hearing that from clients.”

Editor’s note: Cody and his wife, Suni, have a one-year-old daughter, Indi. While Suni used to work for MaxYield at Meservey and Belmond, she is now a stay-at-home mom. In his free time, Cody enjoys spending time with his family.

MaxYield All-Star Team: Carol Laubenthal

20150504_maxyield_041 (1024x681)As we continue to celebrate our 100 year anniversary, we look back at some of the folks that make our company great…including our All-Star team award winners: 

Author and motivational speaker Les Brown noted, “You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great.” When Carol Laubenthal started her career at MaxYield a decade ago, she was up for the challenge.

“Although I grew up on a farm near Rodman, I never thought I’d work in agriculture,” said Carol, a graduate of West Bend-Mallard High School who started at MaxYield’s Hobarton location. “I originally planned on going into the hotel/foodservice industry, so I had a lot to learn about an ag cooperative.”

Her MaxYield education started with running the grain probe and weighing trucks at the scale and advanced from there. “I still remember the first time I did the settlement checks,” Carol said. “The checks seem big until you realize that farmers have to pay for their seed, fuel, and many other expenses with that money.”

Learning the grain industry prepared Carol for her next role as the client care leader at the Algona location. “You have to be a jack-of-all-trades in this role and know about grain and agronomy,” said Carol, who also answers clients’ questions about their MaxYield statements. “While clients can look up information online, they like the fact that they can still call us and talk to someone who knows their farming operation.”

Getting to know MaxYield’s clients is one of the highlights of the job, added Carol, who enjoys visiting with members of the local coffee crowd, who often convene at the Algona office when the weather isn’t conducive to farm work. It’s almost like family—much like the MaxYield team members who make Carol’s job easier.

“We have a great group of people at MaxYield. If you have a question or don’t understand something, there’s always a support system to help you find the answer.” This spirit of service defines members of each year’s All Star Team. “I’ve always admired how the All Star Team interacts with MaxYield clients and MaxYield team members,” Carol said. “It’s a big network of people who go above and beyond with a good attitude and a willingness to help others.”

These leaders also look for ways to embrace new technology to help MaxYield provide even more solutions, Carol added. “That keeps me excited about the future.”

Editor’s note: Carol has two daughters, Clarissa and Casey, who are both 21 and live in the area. In her free time, Carol enjoys traveling to favorite destinations like Las Vegas.

 

He’s There When You Need Him: Dave Petty Named Solutions Provider of the Year

20150504_maxyield_052 (681x1024)As we continue to celebrate our 100 year anniversary, we look back at some of the folks that make our company great…including our most recent Solutions Provider of the Year award winner, Dave Petty.

Writer Robert Hughes noted that, “A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop.” He could have been talking about Dave Petty, MaxYield’s 2014 Solutions Provider of the Year.

“I work for our clients,” said Dave, who runs the shop and handles outside operations at the Dickens location. “Many of them are more like family and friends to me than clients.”

Dave became acquainted with MaxYield’s clients in 2003 when he was completing his ag business degree at Iowa Lakes Community College. The Washta native’s on-the-job training at MaxYield turned into full-time employment after he graduated in 2005. Today, he’s the go-to guy at the Dickens location.

“I do a little bit of everything,” said Dave, who also manages the dry fertilizer facility, has a service truck to handle all kinds of repairs in the field, and attends to equipment maintenance of all types, from repairing a hydrostat in a skid loader to fixing trucks. He credits his father, Reginald, for helping him develop his mechanical skills.

“Dad is kind of a jack-of-all-trades, and I’ve learned a lot from him,” Dave said. “He’d tell me, ’Tear it apart, and you’ll figure it out.’”

Growing up country
It helps that Dave grew up around agriculture and farm equipment. His grandparents farmed, and his father also farmed for quite a few years. “When I was a little kid, I always wanted to farm, too,” Dave said. “I liked the big machines. I never had a bicycle because I went from toy tractors to a pedal tractor to a real tractor.”

Dave will never forget the day he went to a salvage yard near Quimby with his dad. When a 1937 Allis-Chalmers WC caught his eye, 10-year-old Dave made a deal with owner Dennis Rupp, who agreed not to sell the tractor until the end of the summer. This allowed Dave enough time to work odd jobs and redeem pop cans to raise almost all of the $200 required to buy the tractor, which had attracted several other offers in the meantime.

Although Dave was still $20 short when it was time to settle up, his father loaned him the money for the tractor, which reminded Dave of his grandfather’s Allis-Chalmers equipment. “By the time I was 14, Dad and I had that tractor running again,” said Dave, who noted that his father is a walking encyclopedia of vintage tractor knowledge.

“Today, that tractor is the pride of my fleet,” said Dave, who has owned the tractor for nearly 21 years.

During high school Dave worked part-time at a local salvage yard and began to add to his farm equipment fleet. His collection, which now boasts about 24 tractors, along with combines and other equipment, includes his favorite Allis-Chalmers and Farmall machines.

Dave’s practical, hands-on knowledge of equipment has paid off handsomely at MaxYield, where he can handle any fix-it job. “It’s great to have Dave in the West Region,” said Jeff Bonnstetter, shop supervisor in West Bend. “With his skills and his service truck, he can respond to things fast, which benefits our clients. He also has a positive attitude and is an all-around great team member.”

People count on me
While Dave is always willing to go the extra mile, he really goes the distance in the hectic spring and fall seasons. It’s not unusual for him to start his workdays at 5 a.m., and he sometimes works seven days a week.

“If my farmers need fertilizer on Sunday to beat the weather, I’m not going to make them wait until Monday,” Dave said. “I’ll do what I can to take care of them and make sure everything is done in a timely manner.”

He is quick to credit his MaxYield team members, including Tracy Enderson, client care leader at Dickens, for helping him get the job done. “They make sure I have the tools I need and are always there for me,” said Dave, who enjoys mentoring younger team members.

It’s an honor to be named Solutions Provider of the Year, added Dave, who was surprised to hear his name called during the awards ceremony. “People sometimes ask why I don’t transfer to a MaxYield location closer to Cylinder, where I live,” Dave said. “Well, my farmers are here. People count on me, and I want to be there for
them when they need me.”

Editor’s note: Dave has two dogs: a Boston Terrier named Bella and a Boxer/Labrador Retriever mix named Oreo, who has been with Dave since his college days. In his free time, Dave enjoys spending time with his family and restoring vintage farm equipment. He’s also looking forward to a trip to Hawaii this winter.

Celebrating a Century of Solutions

West Bend RailBy Keith Heim, CEO

In 1915, World War I raged in Europe, the transcontinental telephone service debuted in America when Alexander Graham Bell called San Francisco from New York, and northwest Iowa farmers gathered to create a new cooperative.

The first stockholders’ meeting for the West Bend Elevator Company (WBEC) was held on April 6 at 2 p.m., with Henry Dunn elected president. The cooperative was incorporated on May 29, 1915. As we celebrate your cooperative’s 100th anniversary this year, it’s worth looking back on the company’s remarkable history.

To me, 2015 is a major milestone for MaxYield and its predecessor, WBEC, as well as the other cooperatives that have unified with the company along the way. While some people say 100 years in business is no big deal, I say it’s a huge deal. A recent business article made this point in reference to corporate sustainability. In the late 1800s, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was made up of 12 companies. By 1929, 11 of those 12 no longer existed. That was only a 40-year period, not even close to the 100-year mark.

That pattern also exists in the cooperative world. In 1950, there were about 710 grain elevator/farm supply cooperatives in Iowa, which equates to about seven per county. Today, the number of grain elevator/farm supply cooperatives in Iowa has plunged to 58, and the trend continues.

Sometimes people are quick to dismiss the 100th anniversary because they say MaxYield wasn’t the original company that started in 1915. History has proven, however, that companies built to last adapt to meet the changes that transform their industry.

Think of how much Iowa agriculture has evolved since 1915. MaxYield has had to evolve, too, to meet the needs of our clients. Just like our clients, we would not be in business if we hadn’t changed in the past 100 years by adopting new technologies, shutting down business units that were no longer profitable, and growing for the future.

While MaxYield isn’t your grandfather’s or great-grandfather’s cooperative, we continue to embrace the cooperative principles that the company’s founders valued. Principles that have stood the test of time. Throughout 2015, we’ll be highlighting MaxYield’s unique history through our website, magazine, radio advertisements, client events this summer, and more.

It has been an amazing journey for your cooperative in the past 100 years, and we look forward to the next 100 years. Congratulations and thank you to all the stockholders, directors, team members, and clients who have made MaxYield the successful cooperative it is today.

MaxYield 100 Years: November 1956

Davenport Elev.West Bend Elevator Company, founded in 1915, and later renamed MaxYield Cooperative, owes a portion of its history to the former Davenport Elevator Company.

West Bend Elevator was established on the south side of the railroad tracks in West Bend.

Davenport Elevator Company was operating at the time on the north side of the tracks.

Later, West Bend Elevator acquired the Davenport Elevator property, moving most of the operation to its present location.

With this newspaper clipping from the Mason City Globe-Gazette dated November 13, 1956, we look back at an upgrade that Davenport Elevator completed for their feed department.

With the photo below, we also show an original seed bag from the Davenport Elevator Company.

 

20150505_maxyield_341 (497x1024)