SPRING 2014 ISSUE


Selling the Future of Ethanol



POET’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Doug Berven, spends his time advocating ethanol to groups around the world.




When Doug Berven interviewed with POET a decade ago, company founder Jeff Broin told him: “We don’t know exactly what we’re going to do with you, but I’ve got a feeling you’ll fit right in. You’re hired.”


That hunch paid off.


Today, Berven’s coworkers describe him as “the goto person for the ethanol industry’s history” and “a sought-after speaker” and “the face of POET to industry stakeholders.”


“Doug does not look back,” says Berven’s boss, Kyle Gilley, the Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Corporate Affairs. “He looks forward. He’s always selling the positive, always selling the future of the industry. Doug brings that combination of communication skills coupled with the industry history.”


As POET’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Berven says the job has given him the opportunity to embrace his entrepreneurial spirit while making a difference in the world.


“I don’t know where else I could work that would allow me to make a bigger impact on the things I care most about,” Berven says. “I’m proud to be part of a company that has such a positive impact on transportation, on the air my kids breathe, the economy, and on the world as a whole.”


And, more than a decade after that interview with Jeff Broin, Berven continues to fit right in, and Broin’s hunch continues to pay off.


Kyle Gilley described you as “even-keeled.”


DOUG: Fair assessment.


Kyle also said “team player.”


DOUG: I would hope that’s true.


He called you “The face of POET” to outside stakeholders.


DOUG: Boy, that’s a big one, that’s really complimentary. I wouldn’t call myself the face of POET, but I do represent POET around the world the best I can.


Tell me about your recent hunting trip.


DOUG: My son, Chase, is 14. He spent many hours with me hunting deer this past year. We ended up shooting a really nice one that scored over 165 inches. It was so cold out that day Chase’s gun locked up so I shot the deer, but it was a combination effort. I give my son the credit because he would have shot it if his gun wouldn’t have locked up.


Does your daughter hunt?


DOUG: Brynn is 13 and she does not hunt. She’s into choir, piano, dance, and she loves to swim.


You’ve been described as the go-to guy for speaking engagements for POET.


DOUG: I like representing POET and the industry. I usually do 15 to 20 speaking engagements a year, everything from small Rotary Clubs to panels around the world.


How do you deal with the negative questions? You must get people challenging you.


DOUG: Actually, that’s some of the most fun I have representing POET. It’s one thing to preach to the choir about the benefits of your product, your company, your industry. It’s another thing to convince people that they aren’t looking at things properly and turn those people around. We have a great story to tell. Not enough people are hearing it. When we provide the benefits in a factual format, people start to understand what ethanol has to offer. I like to deal with criticism, because most of the criticism is misinformation, and it gives me the chance to tell the real story.


I’ll give you some names, tell me how they’re tied to you: Accordionist Myron Floren; David Soul from “Starsky and Hutch”; and television host Mary Hart.


DOUG: Well, I’ve got a bloodline in common with Mary Hart. She’s a second or third cousin of mine. Very close to my father and grandma. We just had dinner with Mary Hart about a year ago. So that one I know. I’ve never heard of the first name. I know who David Soul is, but I can’t imagine what I have in common with him.


You all attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls.


DOUG: That’s good to know.


What did you do when you started at POET?


DOUG: Jeff Broin asked me to write a business plan for POET Nutrition, which is our animal nutrition division. We did a deep dive on that company, where it was going, what its product mix was, what its future looked like. A strategy session. We changed the name of the company and moved it to Sioux Falls. I’m not trying to take credit for where POET Nutrition is by any means, but it helped guide what the potential of that organization was.


You help new hires get up to speed.


DOUG: I give one-on-one presentations on what we do, why we do it, the history of ethanol and POET, and what the future looks like. People are excited about the job, excited about the company, but they might not have all the information. This gives them the comfort that whatever move they made to come to POET, it was the right move.


What does the future look like?


DOUG: The future for ethanol looks great. We’ve got a problem with our fuel supply today. It’s too expensive. We spend too much money on foreign oil. We use our military to protect the pathways for oil to get to this country. Oil is diminishing. It’s not renewable. We need something to compete or oil companies are going to continue to monopolize the system. In 1973, during the OPEC oil embargo, the price of oil went from about $3 to about $30 a barrel within 8 years. The price of a barrel in 2001 was $22. Then 9/11 hit. The cost today is over $100 a barrel. If history is an indication of what happens when there’s a global event, it’s a multiplying of the price of oil. Can we really afford another global event without a competitive product to gasoline?


Do you and your wife, Sandy, ever wear matching sweatshirts?


DOUG: Only on special occasions. We do the things that happily married couples do: movies, dinner, spending time together, being involved with our kids. With all the busy things life throws at us, we like to spend as much time as we can together. We like to go south in the winter with friends, to someplace warm and try to vacation as a family in the summer.





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