AURORA, Neb. — The Aurora Cooperative last year had more than $1.1 billion in sales and more than 10,000 members — a long way from its beginnings in 1908, when 25 farmers pooled their resources to start the Aurora Elevator Co.
The co-op’s rapid growth made it necessary to build a new corporate headquarters, said board Chairman Bill Schuster of Phillips, and several hundred people attended an open house this week for the cooperative’s new corporate office complex on the Leadership Center campus in Aurora.
Schuster said the cooperative’s leaders had been discussing the need for a new headquarters for about four years before breaking ground in July 2012.
Spending $11 million for a new corporate headquarters was not an easy decision for a company that’s owned by its patrons, Schuster said, but “it was something that needed to be done.”
He said the cooperative has seen sales grow during the last 11 years from $200million to $1.1 billion. The company employs 650 people at 72 facilities in Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota and across the country.
“We not only built this office for today but for years down the road,” Schuster said.
As the new headquarters was being built last year, the cooperative entered into an agreement with CHS, an energy grains and foods company and the nation’s leading farmer-owned cooperative, to build and operate a high-speed shuttle-loading facility near Superior.
The Superior East facility will have a storage capacity of 1.25 million bushels and a 120-car-capacity circle track on the BNSF line to move corn, soybeans and hard red winter wheat to markets in the West and South, including Mexico. Additionally, the location will provide a grain ground piling system, as well as 10,000-ton liquid fertilizer storage.
George Hohwieler, Aurora Cooperative president and CEO, said the construction of the new headquarters is appropriate and timely because of the company’s growth.
He said the new headquarters puts an emphasis on technology while maintaining one-on-one relationships with the co-op’s farmer/owners, suppliers and markets. As the new Superior East facility shows, having the technology to keep on top of what international grain and energy markets are doing in real time can keep the Aurora Cooperative competitive in a rapidly changing world.
“We tried to build the building for the next generation,” Hohwieler said. “That is part of our vision. When you do that, you have to look out and see what are the needs of the American farmers well beyond our lifetime.”
He said the building not only reflects the architecture and design of rural America but is also flexible enough that, “when technology and the needs of the American farmer change, we can change with it.”
“We spent a lot of resources on information technology and backup to that information technology, and we are also investing in employees that can mine data and turn it into information that becomes part of our decision making,” Hohwieler said. “That has all been embedded into this building.”