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POET GM retires

Fri, Dec 27th, 2013
Posted in All Agriculture

Executives from POET headquarters in Sioux Falls, SD, attended Richard Eichstadt’s retirement party full of food and conversation on Thursday, December 12, 2013. Left to right: Colleen Stratton, James Moe, Richard Eichstadt, and Edgar Alhambra. Photo by Jason Sethre

For those who can remember the humble beginnings of POET Biorefining located in Preston, it all started with a meeting in 1996 up at the Branding Iron restaurant. According to long-time supporter Jim Simonson, “There was a foot of snow on the ground and we almost didn’t have a meeting that night.” But, with an initiative led by the Fillmore County Corn Growers, 76 people voted in favor of supporting an ethanol plant to be constructed in Preston.

There has been one member of the POET team that has been leading the way since the beginning, and he will be retiring effective January 10, 2014. Shortly after the construction of what is now called POET Biorefining started in 1997, Richard Eichstadt joined the operations on his birthday - April 21, 1998.

By mid-August 1998, POET Biorefining was up and running. The initial goal of the plant was to produce 12 million gallons of ethanol per year. By the end of 1999, the plant had produced 15 million gallons of ethanol. Since that time, with two expansions, additional fermentors, and changes made to enzymes and yeast, POET Biorefining produced over 46 million gallons of ethanol.

When Eichstadt joined the team at the Preston location, this was only the second ethanol plant in operation under the umbrella of Pro Corn, LLC. Today, there are over 1,600 employees working at 27 ethanol plants in the states of South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio, all under the umbrella of Pro Corn, LLC.

While other ethanol plants in the United States have struggled, POET Biorefining in Preston has thrived. “The model was very good here,” shared Eichstadt. With POET Biorefining sharing results with all 26 other Pro Corn, LLC locations, all operations have continually evolved to adopt best practices in the industry.

POET General Manager Richard Eichstadt has been blessed with the opportunity to be a part of that change and growth. Today, POET Biorefining employs 40 local residents at the Preston location.

For Eichstadt, coming to Preston was like coming home. He grew up in Southwestern Minnesota, and Preston immediately felt like home. As an active member and supporter of the Preston Area Chamber of Commerce, Eichstadt and his team at POET Biorefining have helped out with the annual Trout Days Golf Tournament along with supporting many other activities in the community with financial and human resources. And, Eichstadt indicated that in his retirement he is planning on working more in the volunteer area.

POET Biorefining has accomplished incredible growth under the leadership of General Manager Richard Eichstadt, and the sustainability of sustainable energy companies is not always that common. POET Biorefining has become a leader under Eichstadt’s leadership.

When reflecting on his time with POET Biorefining over nearly 16 years, Eichstadt said “the people here have been very supportive.”

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