Board of Directors hires national firm to conduct search for cooperative’s next leader

After a 40-year career serving the sugar industry, Michigan Sugar Company President and CEO Mark Flegenheimer has announced his plans to retire.

Flegenheimer began his career with Michigan Sugar in 1994 working as Vice President of Administration. He became President and CEO in 1998, following in the footsteps of his father Ernest Flegenheimer, who served as Michigan Sugar Company President and CEO from 1963 to 1993, and his grandfather Albert Flegenheimer, who served as Chairman of the Board from 1963 to 1970.

“Mark’s upcoming retirement will bring an end to an incredible chapter in our company’s history,” said Michigan Sugar Company Chairman James Roggenbuck, who farms in Huron County. “Under Mark’s leadership, Michigan Sugar Company became a grower-owned cooperative in 2002, and two years later merged with Monitor Sugar Company to form the company that exists today.

“Over the past two and a half decades, Mark has been a leading voice and advocate for Michigan Sugar Company and the entire sugar industry in Washington, D.C., helping to shape numerous Farm Bills, trade agreements, and regulatory matters,” Roggenbuck continued. “His family’s legacy is stamped on this company, and we are grateful for his many years of service.”

Since the formation of the co-op and under Flegenheimer’s leadership, annual sugar production has doubled from roughly 630 million pounds to 1.2 billion pounds, while the amount of fuel used in the factories has been reduced by more than 40%. Flegenheimer has recently overseen a major upgrade to Michigan Sugar’s Croswell factory, and last year he led efforts to secure a $75+ million investment to build a molasses desugarization facility at the company’s Bay City factory. That facility is scheduled to come online in fall 2023.

Flegenheimer has been a champion of helping build Michigan Sugar Company’s culture centered on its mission, Creating Growth and Opportunity; its purpose, Making Life Sweeter; its EPIC+ Values: Excellence, Pride, Integrity, Compassion, and Trust; and its commitment to sustainability.

“His understanding of the company’s history, combined with his vision for its future has created a solid path for Michigan Sugar’s next generations of grower-owners and employees,” said Roggenbuck.

Flegenheimer earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1983 from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, and worked for 11 years as a sugar commodities trader in New York City before joining Michigan Sugar Company.

He serves as Chairman of the Board for Tri-Star Trust Bank and volunteers his time as a member of the Delta College Foundation Board of Directors and as Vice Chairman of the Board at the Midland Center for the Arts.

He and his wife Anne live in Saginaw Township and have two adult children.

“It has been an honor and privilege to work in this industry and for Michigan Sugar Company,” said Flegenheimer. “I was fortunate to grow up in this business and to follow in the footsteps of two industry giants – my grandfather and my father. I also have been fortunate to have worked alongside so many world-class grower-owners and employees whose dedication and passion for the sugarbeet industry is second to none.”

Flegenheimer said he has always felt a strong connection to the communities that Michigan Sugar Company touches.“In many cases, these are small towns where our company is a major driver of the economy and the residents either work for us, have a family member who works for us, or know someone who works for us. I am grateful that Michigan Sugar Company has been part of the fabric of these communities for more than 115 years and I trust these places will continue to thrive because of our cooperative.

“As Michigan Sugar Company enters a new chapter in its history, I am proud of the company that we have built together and wish great success for all those involved in its future.”

The Michigan Sugar Company Board of Directors has retained the national search firm Kincannon & Reed to conduct a search for a new President and CEO. That process is expected to take six to nine months. Flegenheimer will remain in his position until his replacement is on board, but over the next two months, he will transition to focusing primarily on national trade and marketing issues and working with Michigan Sugar’s partners at the U.S. Beet Sugar Association, The Sugar Association, and Midwest Agri-Commodities.

As part of the transition, Jim Ruhlman has been named Chief Operating Officer and will oversee the day-to-day operations of the company, reporting to the Board of Directors. Ruhlman has constructed and successfully led several key departments during his 39-year career with Michigan Sugar Company, giving the board confidence in his leadership style and ability. He is a graduate of Saginaw Valley State University and joined Michigan Sugar in 1983. In recent years, as Executive Vice President, he has overseen the Agriculture and Information Technology departments, as well as Packaging and Warehousing.