INDUSTRY LEADERS CITE GEORGE THORNTON AS INNOVATIVE, STRONG BUSINESS PARTNER
Editor's note: We invited some of
the crop input industry leaders and Agriliance strategic partners to share their insights about doing business
with Agriliance CEO George Thornton, NAMA's AgriBusiness Leader of the Year.
Land O' Lakes Inc., Arden Hills, MN
by Chris Policinski, President/CEO
When the Agriliance joint venture was formed, it brought together the agronomy business of four organizations. Fully integrating the facilities, systems, processes, people and cultures of those organizations was a demanding and complex task.
It required a leader with strong vision, an unwavering work ethic and exemplary people skills. When he joined Agriliance, George Thornton brought all of those qualities to the table.
Under George's leadership, Agriliance has developed a unified vision, mission and culture, and has delivered solid business performance and financial results. George's industry insight, management expertise and ability to unite and motivate people have been essential to Agriliance success - in a highly competitive, rapidly changing industry environment.
As a 50-percent owner of Agriliance, Land O'Lakes - and our member-owners - have shared in the success of George and his team.
So, personally, and on behalf of Land O'Lakes, I would like to congratulate George on this well-deserved honor and wish him continued success.
CHS Inc., Inver Grove Heights, MN
by John Johnson, President/CEO
CHS Inc., owns 50 percent of Agriliance, LLC, which represents our involvement in the agronomic inputs business. As leader of Agriliance, George plays a key role in CHS success in serving its producers by leading that organization effectively.
I first became acquainted with George during the process of selecting a new leader for Agriliance. His diverse background in the agronomy business and his experience in both domestic and global settings were an excellent match with the direction we needed to take this organization. We were also confident that George could make the difficult decisions and provide the leadership that would position Agriliance for long-term success in our existing market, as well as growth into new areas.
As I look back on his career with us, clearly he has done just that. Agriliance is a real success story for CHS, for its member cooperatives and other retail customers and, most importantly, for the producers who count on it as a source of crop nutrients, crop protection products and technical expertise. Under George's leadership, we are succeeding on the local level and competing effectively in a globally driven market, particularly where crop nutrients are concerned.
Beyond his accomplishments in the agronomic business arena, I have grown to admire George as a person. He cares deeply about Agriliance employees and the broader community. He's actively involved in a number of organizations in the Twin Cities and has provided a strong example and encouragement for Agriliance employees, particularly where the annual United Way campaign is concerned.
West Central Co-op, Ralston, IA
by Jeff Stroberg, CEO
West Central and Agriliance have created a joint venture to streamline the crop inputs supply chain. It was George Thornton's creative approach to problem solving that moved this innovative concept forward.
It was shortly after I first met George, about three years ago, that he posed the question, "How can Agriliance help grow your business?" After some more discussion I realized he was serious and not just making conversation. The answer to George's question began to evolve and the result was a more innovative and effective solution than either of us expected.
George Thornton certainly deserves the recognition and the honor that is represented by this award. All of us at West Central congratulate George.
LaSalle Farmers Grain Co., Madelia, MN
by David Peters, General Manager
LSFG's relationship with Agriliance is one of "Most Valued Business Partner." In my mind any company wishing to become a most valued business partner must embrace three values that are the glue to all business relationships: flexibility, service and reliability.
Agriliance applies flexibility by thinking creatively and acting quickly. They listen to customers needs and are able to innovate and turn on a dime, which results in both partners flexing new muscles and achieving new goals.
Agriliance delivers service that exceeds our expectations. In order to exceed those expectations, Agriliance provides more options that can create a competitive advantage for the customer.
Finally, Agriliance practices reliability, demonstrating that they are "true" to their word. Reliability is the ultimate demonstration of integrity, and it's that quality that has stabilized LSFG's most valued business partner relationship long term.
Developing a "most valued business partner" relationship takes time. Gradually, as flexibility, service and reliability are woven into the fabric of the partnership, mutual trust and confidence increase. And, over time, "TRUST" is what elevates any partnership to the "most valued" level. This is the type of relationship that LSFG has with Agriliance.
George and the Agriliance team recognize that knowing and honoring their customers is a key component toward providing value. George and the Agriliance team strive towards maintaining an open dialogue and being responsive.
George and his team understand that it is essential to build a relationship between the products and services that they provide for their customers — one that takes into consideration every interaction. Through George's leadership the Agriliance team maintains the focus, diligence and integrity that is necessary in building customer loyalty.
CropLife America, Washington, DC
by Jay Vroom, President/CEO
Agriliance has been a CLA member since 1975 - 31 years. George has career experience in so many facets of our industry - R&D basic manufacturer at ICI, generic supplier at Griffin, and now a major distributor for Agriliance. He is a most valuable leader for our entire industry ... given his direct perspective from all those commercial points of view.
I first met George in Australia in October 1991. Back then he was running ICI's ag business in that part of the world. I was there to speak at the Australia ag chem association. From that early meeting I saw George's commitment to look out for the interests of our entire industry and the value of disparate interests "hanging together" to fight for the same common interests.
George has always been a strong advocate for our industry in all the career roles he's had - and continues to contribute much to U.S. agriculture from his current post at the helm of Agriliance. He is very results-oriented in both commercial business endeavors and in his expectations from industry associations. While he served on the CropLife board he was always a voice for action and he's always encouraged the strongest collaborations possible among crop protection associations.
Tate County Co-op, Senatobia, MS
by Ralph Kahlor, General Manager
About fifteen years ago our business started to diversify into more farm and ranch, lawn and garden consumer sales. New technology came on board in Roundup Ready seed that affected our chemical sales. The market began to change and more generic brands began to appear. Margins began to be really lean. Our row crops changed from small farmers to large acreage farms.
Our cooperative system saw this change and became a member of both Land O'Lakes and CHS. Then Agriliance was formed to enhance our buying power in fertilizer and chemicals.
As a member, we were in several meetings pertaining to change. George Thornton was chosen to be CEO of that operation. In so doing George saw the same change we were facing. In turn, for our system, he took company-owned stores acquired from the Terra buyout and merged the volume buying for company and cooperatives together.
In this down-turned economy in agriculture George saw the change in the fertilizer market and thus introduced the idea of larger terminals and learning to hedge fertilizer due to more import sales in the United States.
Our cooperative system will have to adapt to new ideas and sales, or merge small stores with our neighbors, or slowly go by the wayside. Thanks to George Thornton and his staff we are still very viable and hope to be a future player in the agricultural and consumer markets.
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI),
by Ford B. West, President
The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) has represented Agriliance and its predecessor organization Cenex/Land O'Lakes Agronomy Co., for more than 20 years. During that time, we have enjoyed a close working relationship in our joint efforts to ensure that retail and wholesale fertilizer interests are heard in the halls of Congress, in the regulatory system, and with the media.
George has been a leader in sparking a beneficial push for maximizing efficiencies in the association community. As a result of his vision, the associations that serve Agriliance - including TFI - now work together with greater coordination than at any time in the past.
The work TFI does is enhanced by the participation of its member companies and throughout the years, Agriliance has been an active participant in a wide variety of TFI initiatives ranging from congressional testimony to its work with us in support of government programs that recognize retail agronomists for their important role in helping farmers write nutrient management plans.
The high standard George sets for his employees is evident in their daily interaction with TFI's Washington, D.C., staff.
Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), Washington, DC
by Jack Eberspacher, President/CEO
Agriliance is an active supporting member of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) providing valuable guidance and leadership on industry issues.
In 2003 Agriliance made a sizeable contribution above their base dues to assist ARA during unsettling times in the ever-changing chemical and fertilizer industry. George will be dedicating his time like many busy executives to serve as a director on the ARA board starting this summer.
I first met George Thornton when he spoke at the 2002 ARA conference. George spoke about the ever-changing retail and distribution industry and the direction that he was taking Agriliance. His vision was obviously on target as the company's growth has been superb, and I would assume is a significant factor in being named NAMA AgriBusiness Leader of the Year.
George has a broad industry background in sales, marketing, executive management in basic manufacturing, off-patent suppliers and distribution systems and is uniquely qualified to lead Agriliance through the next industry revolution. His track record at Agriliance has been one of growth, profitability and change. The sign of a leader.
AgriBusiness Group, Inc., Indianapolis, IN
by Mike Jackson, President
Providing visionary leadership amidst the demands of today's agriculture industry is no small task. Add the task of balancing the needs of two parent cooperatives with the needs of your own national footprint organization, and even broader competence and savvy is required. George Thornton has managed these challenges and accountabilities remarkably well, fostering a collaborative and team-centered environment that has produced significant operating results for Agriliance. It is entirely fitting that George was recognized with NAMA's highest award, the AgriBusiness Leader of the Year.
I was introduced to George soon after he was appointed CEO of Agriliance in 2001. It has been a pleasure to work with him and his team on a variety of projects since then. George is a very intelligent and inquisitive person who asks penetrating questions and listens carefully for insight and perspective.
Leading Agriliance combines a tremendous amount of responsibility, job scope and relationship complexity. George has brought together an employee base from several distinct cultural backgrounds into one cohesive operating team. We offer our most sincere congratulations to George and the entire team at Agriliance.
Wilco Farmers, Mt. Angel, OR
by Doug Hoffman, President/CEO
In January 2006, Wilco and Agriliance formed an agronomy joint venture, fulfilling a desire by both companies to further align businesses to capitalize on market opportunities, improve distribution assets and drive down costs. This joint venture formalized a long-term wholesale/retail relationship into an entity with a strong focus on providing programs and products toward a winning solution for our ag customers.
I have enjoyed George's vision for change and his belief in standard core values for the ag supply industry. His inspiration led me to a proactive approach regarding the rapid changes coming in the industry, which resulted in the joint venture.
George's integrity and willingness to accept accountability gave Wilco confidence that a partnership could work. His and Wilco's belief in the core values of integrity, respect, accountability, teamwork and quality products enabled success. The result is a winning Agriliance team that is willing to follow his vision for success.
Finally, George Thornton takes time to get to know his customers. He and his wife, Beth, are real people who honestly care about their family and the families of their customers. AM