American Ethanol Spring 2017 - Page 5

of a Lifetime T homas Edison noted that opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work. Jeff Broin is not most people. The POET CEO owes his success to a mindset of seizing opportunities and a disposition to embrace challenges in order to overcome them, even when the odds seem insurmountable. “Every time I saw an opportunity, I’ve tried to find a way to capitalize on it,” said Broin. His conviction has propelled POET from a single ethanol refinery in South Dakota to one of the world’s largest producers of ethanol and various biorefined products. POET’s and Broin’s trajectory began in 1987 when the family purchased a foreclosed ethanol plant in Scotland, South Dakota. “It was a bad time finan- cially for agriculture,” recalled Broin, who helped rebuild the plant. Earlier, the Broins built a small farm-scale plant in southeast Minnesota that was a stepping stone to learning the production process and economics of making ethanol. “Dad was look- ing to add another farm enterprise to add value to our corn.” The Scotland plant succeeded, which led to the development of a construction company as well as management and marketing companies and the creation of dozens of ethanol production plants across the Midwest. “We started with one 1-million- gallon-per-year plant and ended up with 1.8 billion gallons of production today through the buildout of multiple plants,” said Broin, who served as the first plant’s general manager. Kenya trip for Seeds of Change (crop/yield improvements). Broin and David Priest. SPRING 2017 The farm crisis of the 1980s had a profound effect on Broin, and it continues to guide his commitment to America’s farmers and rural communities. When Broin got into the ethanol business, banks didn’t support ethanol ventures, insurance companies didn’t want to insure production plants, and politicians didn’t embrace the fledgling industry. “There had been a wave of bankruptcies in the early years of ethanol, so it was an uphill battle, especially in the 1980s,” Broin explained. “Ethanol was a bad word to many people who thought the industry would never succeed.” Broin helped ethanol prevail, thanks to smart busi- ness management and a commitment to bring the farmer-owner ethanol plant model to rural America. Broin and his team began building production facil- ities for others in the 1990s. “It’s a higher calling to help people,” Broin said. For years, he maintained a grueling schedule, traveling to some of the Midwest’s most remote regions, inviting farmers and others to invest in etha- nol plants. “Farmers were hurting due to low com- modity prices, and small towns needed economic development,” Broin remembered. “We’ve created financial opportunity for our 6,000 farmer-investors and we raised more than $500 million in equity over 15 years, which resulted in over $2 billion in capital investment in rural America. (continued next page) Alyssa, Miranda, Tammie, Jeff Broin dine in Keyna with Mission Greenhouse partners. Broin at the 2017 Executive Leadership Conference. 5