Steve Domm, manager of Fremar Farmers Cooperative of Marion, S.D. was presented with the Elevator Manager of the Year Award by the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council (SDCUC) during the South Dakota Corn Growers Association (SDCGA) Annual Meeting on Jan. 6 in Sioux Falls.
Every year the SDCUC selects an outstanding elevator manager for the award based on the criteria of dedication to the grain and feed industry, customer service, community service and leadership.
This year’s recipient has a tremendous track record working in the grain industry for the past 20 years. From the very beginning of his career, this elevator manager has built a track record of growth and profitability at every elevator he has managed.
Born and raised on a farm west of Wahpeton, N.D., any thoughts Domm had of farming for a living were redirected when as a senior in high school, his dad died. With interest rates at 18 percent at the time, a teenager buying into the family farm was not an option.
Instead, after obtaining a degree in ag economics and a business minor from North Dakota State University in Fargo, N.D., in 1987, he joined Cargill in southern Minnesota and spent 2.5 years with the company.
From there Domm went on to manage Colfax Farmers Elevator, Inc., in Colfax, N.D., for 10 years before moving on to his current position of management at Fremar, which he has been in for the past six years.
Under Domm’s leadership, Fremar’s grain volume has doubled, the fertilizer business has quadrupled, the seed business has tripled and profitability has soared. In addition, Fremar has added $10 million in building and equipment assets, making it possible for them to handle an average of 25 million bushels of grain a year with a 10 million bushel storage capacity.
Domm credits much of his success to a philosophy of embracing change and surrounding himself with good people.
“The model we have at Fremar is ‘change is inevitable, growth is optional,’” said Domm. And my board of directors has been very cognizant of continuing to invest in the asset base to help grow the business. We have the ability to handle grain in a very efficient, timely manner; we only touch grain once. I’ve had producers tell me that we have cut two complete weeks off of their harvest time. That’s real money.”
Domm says Fremar works hard to make sure their producers stay efficient.
“Our philosophy is ‘get them in and get them out.’ The farmer doesn’t make any money with his truck sitting in the elevator. If the combine is sitting in the field, Fremar has failed,” said Domm. “Our mission statement is we want to be the easiest company to do business with and we want to be the company that the farmers in this area think about when it comes time to buy ag inputs or sell grain.”
As if the success Domm created at Fremar wasn’t enough, in the fall of 2004, he sat in the combine cab of every one of his Fremar board directors and challenged them to consider spending $30 thousand on a corn availability/ethanol feasibility study for an ethanol plant located next to a grain terminal.
The rest is a piece of history now called Millennium Ethanol, a 100 million gallon plant which is about 12 months away from grinding corn adjacent to Fremar Farmers Coop. At the time their successful equity drive was completed, Millennium Ethanol made a South Dakota first as being the largest privately-funded, independent project in the history of the state.
Fremar Coop will be the managing entity of Millennium Ethanol and Domm will serve dual roles as the general manager of Fremar and the CEO of Millennium.
When asked why Domm wanted to take on the ethanol project, his response is simple:
“To help the local corn farmer by creating demand and to help local rural communities. And defense; if we wouldn’t have done it someone else would have,” said Domm. “You can only ship 110 cars of corn out of Marion every six days before someone realizes there’s a lot more corn than we thought there was. And, I like being able to work with farmers who are, day in and day out probably the most genuine, trustworthy people you will find.”