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Partner-Focused Golden Grain Energy Provides Leadership
by Rachel Gerber

Golden Grain Energy, LLC, located on the south edge of Mason City, Iowa, is an ethanol plant dedicated to local ownership and support. More than 750 local farmers and investors own Golden Grain, which producers more than 100 million gallons of ethanol per year.

The plant’s mission is to add value to the corn grown in the area and enhance the income of their investor partners, while providing economic growth to the area they serve. Golden Grain’s core values are to be committed to being a strong partner in the local community, a key player in the regional economy, and a leader in Iowa’s ethanol industry.

In 2002, the company evaluated 30 locations and found Mason City to be ideal. According to President and Chief Executive Officer Walt Wendland, this location was selected based on its proximity to the border, which cut down on transportation. The choice was clear when the city agreed to assist with water supply for fire protection and financial support in purchasing, Wendland says.

Local ownership has brought value to the plant, says Dave Sovereign, Chairman of the Golden Grain Board of Directors.

“Our plant is made up of a community. The story of our success lies in the businesses, community leaders, and farmers of our community as we have been helping each other to grow and prosper,” Sovereign said.

Wendland agrees that this type of ownership benefits the local economy and the plant as well.

“It is a huge advantage to be locally owned because the farmers understand that agriculture has its ups and downs,” Wendland said. “Our shareholders have been supportive throughout the process.”

Wendland embodies the plant’s commitment to the local community, serving two terms on Mason City’s Environmental Stewardship Committee. He was able to discuss the ethanol plant’s involvement in emission control and exchange energy efficiency tips with other business owners in the area.

“At the beginning of each meeting, we were able to share things we had learned in the past week about energy efficiency in our particular area of work. I was able to educate community members about the environmental benefits of our ethanol plant,” Wendland said.

Partnering with other ethanol plants, Golden Grain makes the overall well being of the industry another priority.

“Our plant is unique in our philosophy of management,” Sovereign said. “We focus on being a neighbor to the community and other plants in the region.”

“We have helped a few plants get off the ground and become a strong plant. We have invested and held board members in Absolute Energy, Guardian Energy, and Renewable Products Marketing Group, LLC. In December of 2008, we co-signed an agreement with Homeland Energy. The partnership includes management experience from Golden Grain and environmental services from Homeland. This has helped each of us become more experienced and has reduced costs,” Wendland said.

He feels the partnerships have benefited all involved, increasing information exchange and general efficiency.

“We feel a real commitment to help farmer-owned plants to survive. When we pool our knowledge together and buy products together, the odds of success really increase,” Wendland says.
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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industryís hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanolís carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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