Growing up in Iowa, Don Davis worked in a variety of roles over the years from being an auto mechanic to selling life insurance, and it was in the 70s when ag-business came into focus....
Looking back on a 28-year career in Redwood Falls, Don Davis knows he has established a lot of positive relationships.
“I have met a lot of business people over the years whether at meetings or on the golf course,” said Davis, adding while there was always the business element to those relationships many of them also became friends.
While Davis can say he worked in a very unique industry, he also admits he never planned to spend nearly three decades working for Farmers Union Industries.
He actually began his college education focusing in music, ultimately determining there was something else out there for him.
Growing up in Iowa, Davis worked in a variety of roles over the years from being an auto mechanic to selling life insurance, and it was in the 70s when ag-business came into focus.
“The economy was struggling,” said Davis, who said he got a job working for Land O’Lakes in its poultry division as a salesman. “My dad was affiliated with Land O’Lakes, and because I had grown up on a poultry farm I was able to get that job.”
Davis was later promoted to the feed division and served in that role for eight years.
A local cooperative manager opted to venture out on his own, and Davis was asked to help with this new challenge. The turnaround that was expected never really happened, and so Davis started looking for a new job.
That search led him to Redwood Falls.
“I sent of a resume to Ed Weiland,” said Davis, adding Weiland’s first contact was through a phone call to the Davis home. “He called one night, and my daughter answered the phone.”
Davis later was told his daughter talked with Weiland for some time, and the joke between the two of them was it was that conversation that solidified his call to the new job.
Davis and his family came to Redwood Falls in October 1984, and he started his role with Central Bi-Products as director of sales and marketing.
“Through the years we had ups and downs,” said Davis, adding however, the company always seemed to manage to do well enough to make a profit.
Davis climbed the ladder at the company helping to meet the goal of adding value, adding it was cutting edge at the time to be talking about value-added industries.
“At the time there weren’t a lot of people talking about value-added,” Davis said.
One of those value-added elements was the utilization of feather meal as a by-pass protein for ruminant rations, and while they did not do the research that demonstrated the protein value in feather meal, Central Bi-Products partnered in the research that was being done at the University of Nebraska and put it to work.
When it was announced Jerry Letters would be stepping down as company president in 1999, the board of directors offered the role of President and CEO to Davis who took over that leadership position in January 1999.
As Davis moved into that role, he embraced the concept of diversity, and during his time in that leadership role he added Redwood Metal Works, which is now a full-scale manufacturing company.
Pet Care Systems and its main product SWheat Scoop Kitty Litter has also been a good addition, as it provided an all-natural, green product to the company’s repertoire.
Knowing the company is in a good position and knowing the right people have been added in the right places, Davis has determined now is the time to step down.
Davis said he plans to spend more leisure time doing everything from traveling to spending time with his family, including wife, Daphne, his children and grandchildren.
“I just want to take some time to enjoy life,” he said.
When he looks back on his career, Davis said he hopes people remember that time as one where the company he helped lead not only looked for success financially but also found success in supporting the community.
“We have been a company that believes in this community and has always strived to be a good neighbor,” said Davis, adding the company under his leadership has supported a variety of community events and organizations. “For me it has always been about helping others and helping ensure Redwood Falls is a good place to be.”
Whether it was the fire department, local law enforcement, the local library, the school or the hospital, Davis believed in the importance of investing in others.
In other words, Davis hopes, regardless of what role he was filling, that the community is a better place because he was part of it.