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New manager takes over reins at Corn Plus plant

By Staff | Aug 29, 2010

Mark Drake, center, is the new manager at Corn Plus in Winnebago. At left is Bill Drager, Corn Plus chairman of the board, and at right is retiring manager Keith Kor.

Corn Plus has a new general manager and one of his first orders of business will be to increase profitability.

Mark Drake began his new job on Aug. 23. He was hired to replace Keith Kor, who announced in January he would be retiring at the end of this year.

“We’ve gone through some tough times the past two years. We want to focus on increasing the rate of return for our shareholders,” says Bill Drager, chairman of Corn Plus’ board of directors.

The search for a general manager began in March and ended in July.

Drager says a consultant was hired and traveled throughout the Midwest to find potential candidates.

“We started out with 10 and narrowed the list down to four, then two finalists who we interviewed for more than two hours,” he says.

Drake’s management experience of more than 25 years in fuel industries and his ability to increase revenue is what impressed board members.

“There was no doubt Mark would be our guy,” says Drager.

Before coming to Corn Plus, Drake was the chief executive officer and president of Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

He was responsible for all the construction and start-up operations of the ethanol plant which produces 110 million gallons a year.

Drager had nothing but good things to say about Kor, calling him a “very loyal employee” who implemented energy reduction measures at the facility.

“He also should be commended for getting us through some verydifficult times,” says Drager.

Last year, the company paid a $150,000 penalty to settle a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency criminal water-quality charge.

Earlier this year, Corn Plus owners reached an agreement with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to resolve violations of permits obtained from the agency.

They agreed to pay a $200,000 civil penalty and complete a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP) totaling no less than $691,000.

Drager says technologies used at Corn Plus to cut energy costs make the facility a “high-bred and frontrunner” in the industry.

“It’s time to capitalize on whatever efficiencies we have. You have to be the most efficient plant on the block and that may mean having leaner operations,” he adds.

Kor is expected to work through September and assist Drake with the transition.