Fifty five years ago, when Great Bend’s landscape looked a lot different than it does now, the Great Bend Co-op Association was just getting started with first-year sales of under $1 million.
Like the community’s landscape, those numbers also look a lot different than they did in 1959. Last year’s closing sales were over $150 million, with much of that attributed to the strong grain prices in the last few years.
But sales aren’t the only numbers that have grown over the years. In 2010, the Co-op employed 65 full-time people, and today that figure has increased to 79 employees with an additional 14 part-time employees for a total of 93 individuals and a payroll of $4.5 million before benefits.
Other impressive statistics include the earnings of about $5 million that get distributed back to the Co-op members. The co-op pays approximately $300,000 annually for property taxes, and does almost all their business locally.
Commitment to community and economic impact are two of the main reasons why the Great Bend Co-op was recognized with the 2014 Business of the Year award on Saturday night at the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development’s Annual Meeting and Banquet.
The Co-op has been a faithful supporter of numerous Chamber programs, including the Great Bend Farm and Ranch Expo and the annual Kids Ag Day for fourth-grade students.
“We’ve been a staple in the Great Bend for several decades, and the backbone of our business is customer service,” says Frank Riedl, president of the Co-op Association. “Our biggest priorities are customer service and keeping up with the ever-changing technology in the agricultural industry. When our customers’ needs change, we try to adapt with them.”
The Great Bend Co-op has seen a lot of change in 56 years.
The association was founded in 1959, followed by lots of changes in the decades since, including merging with the Ellinwood Co-op in 1973; buying the Boyd Elevator in 1974; buying the elevator at 16th and Kansas in the early 1980s; merging with Farmers Grain, Fuel and Livestock at Pawnee Rock, Albert and Dundee in 1995; buying the Walnut Creek Mill Elevator in 1995; and merging with Radium and Seward in 2001.
The most obvious service the Co-op provides is grain storage, with approximately 7.5 million bushels of grain storage are available in eight locations — Great Bend, Ellinwood, Boyd, Albert, Pawnee Rock, Dundee, Radium and Seward.
An average of 10 million bushels cycle through the co-op annually. They also sell fertilizer, chemicals, a feedmill, an Ampride service station, fueling sites, a farm store, a seed store, an agronomy department with commercial applicators and consultants, and an agricultural seed division.
“We are a very diverse business, and that is an asset to long-term viability. Being able to adapt and change with the times has been a huge contributor to our growth,” Riedl said. “The Co-op makes significant investments each year into equipment, technology, and facility improvements. The agriculture industry is growing faster than we can keep, with fewer producers doing more than ever before. We make these investments so we can continue serving these hardworking farmers long into the future.”
The “Business of the Year” is an annual award presented by the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce to showcase companies that demonstrate excellence in customer service, growth, and response in positive ways to adversity. Businesses must also show community involvement and demonstrate innovative business practices by improving products, services and programs.
Business of the Year Winners
2013—Great Bend Regional Hospital; 2012—Rosewood Services Inc.; 2011—Tim Miller Enterprises; 2010—Kustom Floor Designs Inc.; 2009—Eldridge Fencing Inc.; 2008—Business Management Inc.; 2007—Great Bend Tribune; 2006—Central Kansas Medical Center; 2005—Venture Corporation; 2004—Adams Brown, Beran & Ball Chtd.; 2003—Great Bend Feeding Inc.
2002—CPI Qualified Plan Consultants Inc.; 2001—Doonan Corporation; 2000—Farmers Bank and Trust, NA; 1999—Dillons Stores; 1998—Stickney Distributing Inc.; 1997—Office Products Inc.; 1996—Fuller Brush Company; 1995—Becker Tire and Treading Inc.; 1994—Straub International; 1993—Marmies of Great Bend