North Dakota native has more than three decades of experience in the agribusiness sector
Michigan Sugar Company has named Neil C. Juhnke of Lake Park, Minnesota, its next President and CEO.
A native of North Dakota, Juhnke comes to Michigan Sugar to continue a career in the agribusiness sector that stretches back to 1990. He replaces retiring President and CEO Mark S. Flegenheimer who led Michigan Sugar the past two and a half decades.
“My family and I are incredibly excited for the opportunity that lies ahead,” said Juhnke, who began his career at American Crystal Sugar Company in Moorhead, Minnesota, and spent 15 years there working his way up to become Ag Operations Manager, where he was responsible for the harvest, storage, and transportation of the company’s sugarbeet crop and served on the company’s Executive Operating Committee. “I am very much looking forward to returning to my roots and working alongside Michigan Sugar Company’s world-class grower-owners and its talented workforce.”
Juhnke earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1990 from North Dakota State University and in 2002 completed the Essentials of Management Program at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
After leaving American Crystal in 2005, Juhnke was instrumental in the founding and development of Northstar Agri Industries, where he led the development and construction of a successful canola processing and refining plant near Hallock, Minnesota. Juhnke later became President and Chief Operating Officer, overseeing the processing of more than 400,000 tons of canola seed annually into canola oil and canola meal.
More recently, Juhnke served as Vice President of Manufacturing and Operations for Fargo, North Dakota-based Red River Commodities Inc., a food processing company, with four divisions – including the well-known SunButter LLC – and seven factories spread across Kansas, North Dakota, and Texas. During his time there, Juhnke led a strategic operations initiative, improving the company’s safety, capital deployment, plant maintenance, and production management processes.
“Michigan Sugar Company is fortunate to have found someone to lead our cooperative who has a resume of diverse business experiences and a proven track record in the agribusiness and food sectors” said James Roggenbuck, Michigan Sugar Company’s Co-op Board Chairman. “Neil’s management strengths include strategic planning, business development, operations excellence, team building, problem solving, communication, shareholder relations, leadership, and development of enhanced employee engagement generating fundamental business success.
“Most importantly, he has a career rooted in the sugar industry. He knows how to make sugar and that is where our focus needs to be.”
Juhnke, who begins his duties on Monday, April 3, said he has always aspired to do this type of work.
“The sugarbeet industry flows in my veins, so to speak,” he said. “And there is something intrinsically rewarding about working for a cooperative because you know the fruits of your efforts are going to the bottom line of farm families who are as invested in the community as anyone else. I’ve experienced every model of business – from publicly traded to privately owned – and I can’t tell you how many benefits I see in working for a grower-owned company.”
Juhnke and his wife Heidi have four adult children – Aaron, David, Daniel, and Hannah – as well as four grandchildren. In his free time, he enjoys a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, hunting, fishing, golfing, and offroad motorcycle riding.
Flegenheimer, who spent 40 years working in the sugar industry and has served Michigan Sugar as its President and CEO since 1998, said he is looking forward to welcoming Juhnke to the cooperative family.
“Michigan Sugar is fortunate to have Neil as the company’s next President and CEO,” he said. “The cooperative has a bright future with his proven leadership skills. I wish him all the success as he leads this great company into the future.”