Growing up on a farm near Gaylord, Duane Anderson recalls spending time hanging around in Redwood Falls. Little did he know then how much the community would be part of his life in the future.
Anderson, who became president and chief executive officer for Farmers Union Industries in Redwood Falls as of Jan. 1, may have ended up just 45 miles from home, but he certainly took the scenic route to get there.
After graduating from Gaylord High School in 1982, Anderson began farming with his dad. He also did some trucking as a way to earn money. Soon after, he started his own business – custom combining.
“I would start in Texas and head to North Dakota,” said Anderson, adding there were a couple of times that work continued into Canada. “It was very good work at the time.”
Having gotten married in 1988, Anderson continued that role spending several months on the road, but as the family grew he knew something had to change.
“I sold the business in 1994,” he said. “I did it for 10 years and just got tired of being on the road.”
Knowing he had to find a way to make a living, Anderson opted 12 years after graduating from high school to start college, and in a little more than three years he earned an accounting degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato.
“I was very motivated to get done with school,” he said, admitting at the time it was hard to be going to school while his wife was working. “I took a lot of 20-21 credit quarters and did full summer sessions just to get done.”
Having started his college career with the vision of becoming an engineer, Anderson discovered that was not in the cards, but taking a couple of business classes and seeing success led him to earn his accounting degree.
Anderson became a CPA in 1998.
He found his first job at a company in New Ulm but soon moved on to a new role in Lake Crystal.
Prior to the move to Redwood Falls, Anderson had been working as a controller for AGCO in Jackson.
“It was my intent to stay at AGCO for a long time,” he said.
Then one day while he was sitting in his office he got a call.
That call led him to what was known at the time as the Farmers Union Marketing and Processing Association (FUMPA) for an interview with Don Davis, the current president, and CEO and Dave Morman, the company chief financial officer.
Anderson said Morman was planning to retire, and so Anderson was offered the CFO position.
Page 2 of 3 - “Every time I have taken on a new job I have tried to find something that meant more responsibility and more leadership opportunities for me,” said Anderson.
The CFO job would allow him the chance to take that next step professionally, because it did require added responsibility but it also meant he would be more involved in the business decisions for what has become Farmers Union Industries.
Anderson added the potential to climb the ladder at the company was an additional enticement for him. Being closer to extended family was another.
Anderson started as CFO May 15, 2003, and over the past nine-plus years he has seen the company grow under the leadership of Davis.
When Anderson graduated from college he set a goal in the long term to either own another business or to run one for someone else one day. That came to fruition at the beginning of this year.
As president and CEO, Anderson said his role has taken on a more strategic approach as he looks to grow the company’s existing assets and to find other prospective acquisitions to add to the company’s profile.
“We are always looking for that next acquisition,” he said, adding he is hoping within the next five years to add another quality company to the Farmers Union Industries family.
Anderson said taking on the role of president and CEO was an easy one, because of the people who continue to work for the company.
“I am blessed with a great management team,” he said. “There are a lot of good people here with a lot of experience who have been doing their jobs for a long time.”
The vision for the future is to continue to see the kind of growth that has made Farmers Union Industries financially sound and to continue to develop a strong base of employees. The challenge, he said, is going to be in finding the right people to replace those who are going to be retiring in the next few years. That he said is not necessarily different than what other companies are facing, but it does still present a challenge for the future. Making sure those employees have good jobs is important for the company to succeed, he added.
Anderson said he recognizes as a commodities business much of what they do is driven by the market, but as he sees the company continuing to diversify he believes it can better withstand market volatility.
“Our goal here in the end is to provide a return for our owners and stakeholders,” he said. “This is a good company.”
Anderson, who has demonstrated community leadership as well is going to continue through the end of this year as chair of the Redwood County EDA and Redwood Area Development Corporation. He is also president of the local ATV club and is active at St. Michael’s Church and with the Knights of Columbus. He and his wife Kris live on a farm in rural Morgan and have seven children.
Page 3 of 3 - Anderson has seen his goal accomplished, but now he has new ones and a new vision to take what is an already very successful company to the next level.