Todd A. Becker
“There’s never been a day in my career that I haven’t loved what I do.”
Under Todd Becker’s leadership, Green Plains has grown from a fledgling ethanol producer to the second largest consolidated owner in the world, earning Fortune’s stamp as one of the nation’s fastest growing companies.
“It’s still very early in our days. We are nowhere near the end game for what we’re trying to build,” Becker says. “We think the future is bright, and we love the industry we’re in.”
At present, Green Plains’ 17 plants, located in Nebraska, Iowa and beyond, produce about 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol a year. In conjunction with – and as a co-product of – its ethanol production operations, Green Plains produces more than 4.1 million tons of distillers grains and 343 million pounds of corn oil annually. It also feeds cattle, owns and manages fuel terminals, and now owns Fleischmann's Vinegar Company, the largest producer of industrial vinegar in the world.
“We’re trying to build this company where we are touching all different pieces of what we do and disintermediating everyone else from making money off of our supply chain.”
Forward-focused – an expert in risk management – Becker thrives in an industry known for its volatility, a steady hand backed by a fierce and inherent drive to succeed.
“I knew from a very young age that I was going to be a trader. My grandfather was a trader. I watched the traders go to the Board of Trade in Chicago and come home wealthier than when they left and I said that’s for me.”
Becker, who earned a Master’s Degree in Finance from the Kelley School of Business, started his career as a bond trader in Kansas City. He went on to work for Scoular Grain Company, Farmland Industries and ConAgra before going “all in” with an ethanol startup.
“I put it all at risk right then and there. And people thought I was crazy because I had this up-and-coming career. They said, ‘You can’t do that.’ I said, ‘This is my time, I have to try.’”
His success with Global Ethanol led to a CEO position with another ethanol startup, VBV LLC, which merged with Green Plains in 2008. Becker was named president and CEO in January 2009.
Green Plains currently employs 1375 people across the nation with revenues topping $4 billion a year. Becker expects the company to crack the Fortune 500 list in the next couple of years.
“So that’s a milestone but in the end, we still want to be a great company. We still want to grow our company. We want to grow value for our shareholders, take care of our employees and their families, and make sure we’re a good destination to go to.”
2017 Business Hall of Fame Honorees