In Sight: The American Dream: 35 Years of POET

Milestones, by nature, cause us to reflect. They provide a rare occasion to look back upon the challenges, successes, and people that got us to where we are.

This October, POET will celebrate one such milestone: our
35th anniversary.

As I reflect on the last three and a half decades, I am truly humbled. What started as a small farm-scale bioethanol plant built to use my family’s surplus grain in Minnesota gave rise to a one-million-gallon-per-year facility in South Dakota and, in the years since, has expanded into the world’s largest producer of biofuels and a leader in bioproducts processing 7% of the U.S. corn crop.

From day one, I had faith that bioethanol would be a valuable tool for American agriculture. But when I moved to South Dakota — someplace I had never been — in 1987 to take the helm of a defunct bioprocessing plant, I could never have envisioned the scope of what POET would become.

At the time, I was a 22-year-old with a head full of big ideas, a lot to prove, and no idea what I was in for. I was on a small but worthy mission to turn a profit at that plant so I could put food on the table and a roof over my head. I had a white-picket-fence vision of the future: a modestly successful career, a place to call home, and hopes to raise a family.

I suppose I wanted what many of us want. It’s what they call the “American Dream.”

The American Dream represents the spirit of our country, the set of ideals upon which this nation was built. This philosophy that every person, regardless of who they are or where they’re from, has the opportunity to achieve their goals has been instilled in generations of American hopefuls.

But as I matured alongside this industry, so did my dream — not just for the company and my family, but for the country and, eventually, the world.

As POET grew, we quickly saw that we could do more than process some surplus grain; we could create a much-needed market for farmers and bring long-term profitability to the heartland. We could do more than design and build some bioethanol facilities; we could continuously improve the production process and develop cutting-edge technology that continues to evolve to this day. We could do more than make fuel and feed from corn; we could innovate an ever-growing suite of plant-based bioproducts and create a brighter future for everyone.

At POET, we’re not just dreamers — we’re doers. We’re trailblazers and innovators and champions for a better world, and we can attribute our success to the same hard work, tenacity, and good old-fashioned common sense that built this great country.

Building a global bioprocessing powerhouse from the ground up is nothing short of astounding. Yet, thanks to the many who dreamed and worked alongside me, here we are.

All those years ago, at our first plant, I said, “We hope that we will do this industry some good, and we think we will.”

Thirty-five years, tens of billions of gallons of bioethanol, hundreds of billions of pounds of DDGS, more than 80 biotechnology patents, 33 bioprocessing facilities, and over 2,200 world-class team members later — and I still feel as though we’re just getting started.

Not only do I believe we’ve done this industry some good, but we’ve also done a whole lot of good for the world and everyone in it. It’s been an incredible ride, and I’m grateful for every minute of it and every team member, investor, farmer, and supporter that have helped write the POET story.

Here’s to the next 35 years!




Vital is a news & media resource published by POET, presenting a variety of stories with the thought leadership one expects from the largest, most forward-thinking bioethanol producer.