The National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) has named Leon Westbrock, executive vice president and chief operating officer of energy for CHS Inc., its 2009 Agribusiness Leader of the Year.
This award, which is NAMA’s highest honor, will be presented at the Opening General Session of the 2009 Agri-Marketing Conference, “Hot Ideas, Sizzling Solutions,” April 16, 2009 in Atlanta. The award honors outstanding leaders in agribusiness, education, government service or other agribusiness related areas who exemplify excellence in agribusiness by their significant contributions to the industry.
It’s no secret that the energy industry has been on a rollercoaster ride for nearly two years. In fact, while unprecedented volatility has made this market cycle especially difficult, the industry has been through many periods of highs and lows over the last two decades. “Through it all, Westbrock’s calm drive, inspirational and empowering leadership style, and clarity in balancing market economics, customer needs and company operations have made him the ideal leader for the CHS energy business.,” the association said in announcing the award.
Westbrock leads the multifaceted energy business of CHS Inc., a Fortune 200 company providing essential resources in energy, grains and foods. CHS is the nation’s largest member-owned business (cooperative) and runs the largest cooperative-owned energy business in the country. He is responsible for refineries, pipelines and terminals, and sale of refined fuels (gasoline, gasoline-ethanol blends, diesel fuel, biodiesel), lubricants and propane primarily marketed under the Cenex brand through more than 1,600 Cenex branded retailers in 22 states.
“He combines excellent people management with strategic capital investment and a farsighted approach to building the energy business within a rapidly changing world,” NAMA said.
Committed to Growth
In 1997, Westbrock helped forge a joint venture between CHS and rival Farmland Industries to combine energy marketing platforms and resources. While difficult to establish and largely unexpected in the industry, this move was critical to long-term viability of the Cenex brand.
“Leon also has the unique ability to create trust and partnerships, even with competing companies,” said Anwer Hussain, senior vice president of lubricants for CHS. “Leon’s leadership enabled formation of Country Energy (the joint venture), which ultimately resulted in CHS acquiring Farmland’s energy business. Without his vision, it would have been difficult to build and grow the Cenex brand profitably.”
“Our board has always relied on Leon for a marketing perspective,” added Jim Loving, president of National Cooperative Refinery Association (NCRA). “Whether the issue is crude oil sources, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or future diesel demand, we count on Leon for sound advice and input.”
As a cooperative, CHS provides patronage to its member cooperatives based on the products they buy, grain they sell and services they use, and determined by the overall financial performance of those businesses. Eligible members receive a portion of their patronage in cash, with the remainder becoming equity (ownership) in CHS. Higher corporate profitability enables CHS to return higher amounts of patronage to its cooperative customers.
Lauded for Industry Knowledge
Westbrock’s drive to increase value to customers while prudently using resources has resulted in consecutive years of record profits and record energy patronage to customers, with refined fuels patronage increasing from 2.70 cents per gallon in fiscal 2003 to 20.93 cents per gallon for purchases made in fiscal 2007, a 670% increase.
As a knowledgeable, trusted industry representative, Westbrock is frequently called on to provide insight to groups from member cooperatives to state and national political leaders. He willingly shares his time with these groups, helping to educate them and learning at the same time.
“Leon has always been willing to and has often helped with state and federal affairs issues,” said Bob Looney, CHS’ vice president of government affairs. “He sets a great example by being involved with governmental affairs and that has trickled down to others in the energy business unit. In addition, federal officials and their staff members want trusted friends they can turn to for information and analysis of complex issues.”