November 28, 2020

It’s Great to Be Back: Greenville Location Embraces Client-First Mindset

As the Greenville location at MaxYield Cooperative prepared for its third harvest, it hasn’t just transitioned from a seasonal location to a full-time location. Moving from a corporate business structure to a cooperative system has also redefined Greenville.

“I like MaxYield’s focus on being a solutions provider for our clients,” said Kent Engel, Greenville grain superintendent. “It’s great to be back in the cooperative system.”

Greenville plays an important role in MaxYield’s west territory. Located about 10 miles south of Spencer, MaxYield Cooperative is the biggest economic engine in this town of approximately 60-plus residents.

Greenville offers 1.5 million bushels of grain storage, including two 350,000-bushel bins and one 710,000-bushel bin that were built in recent years. Providing fast, efficient grain handling services is one of the hallmarks of Greenville.

It’s a whole different mindset than when the location was part of the corporate structure before that. “Corporate has a mission to provide maximum return to the shareholders,” Engel said. “That’s a much different philosophy than a cooperative, where the members are the owners.”

Multiple transitions created challenges

Greenville’s history in the grain business dates back generations. The business was privately-owned grain elevator for decades. In the 1970s, Greenville joined with grain facilities in Langdon and Spencer before all three were bought by Farmers Co-op in Everly, which later included Hartley, Royal and Milford.

The cooperative merged with Superior in the 2000s to become Great Lakes Cooperative. Within a few years, Green Plains bought the cooperative and its locations.

“Ethanol was coming on board around that time,” Engel said. “Management said this might be a case where if we can’t beat them, we should join them and provide corn for the ethanol plant in Superior.”

The Greenville location was part of Green Plains for about four years. “We had a lot of transition in a short amount of time,” Engel said.

More change occurred when Greenville and other locations in Green Plains were sold to The Andersons, LLC in Ohio. “The Andersons had facilities in Nebraska and wanted to fill in the gaps from Nebraska to Ohio,” said Engel, who noted that Greenville was part of The Andersons for four years before MaxYield purchased The Andersons’ locations in April 2016.

All these transitions cost the Greenville location some clients through the years. “The different changes in ownership every few years made it tough,” Engel said. “If a client leaves, you have to earn that trust back and rebuild that relationship again.”

Greenville evolves with the times

Engel believes the cooperative system offers one of the best ways to grow these relationships, since the business exists to serve the farmers. His cooperative roots run deep, back to the years he was growing up in Paullina.

“My father, Robert, managed the co-op at Paullina for more than 30 years,” said Engel, who has worked in the cooperative system since 1977. “I grew up around the elevator. To me, that was like growing up on the farm.”

Engel has seen a lot of changes in agriculture during his career, including the size of the farms. “When I was growing up, a quarter section was a pretty big farm,” he noted.

As the farms have changed, so have the grain elevators that serve them. Greenville, which used to be served by the Milwaukee railroad, used to have a single grain bin east of the office, along with three flat storage areas for grain. Grain could be shipped by rail until the tracks were removed around 1975-76.

In the 2000s, Greenville received a new 15,000-bushel-per-hour grain leg. “The old grain was so slow it was pathetic,” Engel said. “Between the new grain leg and the new bins we’ve added, it has all made a huge difference.”

Along with fast service, MaxYield offers a Keytrol fuel station at Greenville. Members of the local coffee crowd stop by the office each morning for hot coffee and fresh popcorn. Some drop by again in the afternoon.

Even the coffee crowd has changed through the years in Greenville. “It used to be a card playing group who exchanged small amounts of money,” said Engel, who noted that the crowd was biggest in the winter. “There might be 12 to 14 people in here, which made it tough to do business, since you had no privacy.”

There used to be quite a few smokers among the coffee crowd. “In the dead of the winter, you’d have to open the windows to try to clear the smoke out of the office,” Engel said.

All that changed in 2008, when Iowa lawmakers passed the Smokefree Air Act, which prohibits smoking in enclosed areas within places of employment. “That was kind of hard on the coffee crowd,” said Engel, who enjoys visiting with the regulars who continue to stop by the Greenville office.

Engel appreciates the chance to serve local farmers. “Our clients are forward thinkers who adapt to change and are willing to try new things. They are good people to be working for.”




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