Employee Spotlight: Ryan Brock
Name: Ryan Brock
Title: Laboratory manager
Location: Shenandoah, IA
Education: BS of Biochemistry
Hometown: Platte Center, NE
How long have you been with Green Plains? 3 years
Describe what you do with Green Plains? Each day is different, I am in charge of making sure that fermentation operates correctly, improving efficiency and chemical usages, maintaining lab equipment used for quality and monitoring, sampling and testing. And tours! I also work with the algae project and aid in some testing and sampling for them.
What did you do prior to Green Plains? I came straight out of college, I was actually hired before graduating and my position was contingent on successful completion. I started and haven’t stopped learning since.
What made you take a look at Green Plains? I was in a careers and interviews class and the professor was also a career counselor. She received an email from our GM with the job description; she gave it to me and I started looking into it. I had looked at some positions within the ethanol industry and have always known about a little bit about it. At that time it was just two little plants out in Iowa; since then we haven’t stopped growing by leaps and bounds!
Is this what you expected to do with your degree? When I started college, I wanted to get into research, especially microbiological research. This job has given me plenty of chances to work in Micro as well as chemistry and biochemistry. This was not what I was planning on doing [after college], but I prefer what I do to what I thought I was going to be doing.
What’s your favorite thing about your job? It is constantly changing and getting more challenging. There is always plenty to keep me busy and I’m always able to do tests and trials which give me the research aspect of my pre-college aspirations. I also love the industry and the people I get to meet. I’ve been all over the country and have met with lots of people who are all working towards the same goal. Everyone helps everyone, and it is a very fun community in general.
Are there any extra projects you've taken on?: Definitely. I recently became a certified green belt in lean six sigma so that I could continue to get better at optimizing the plant. I was also the sole operator and employee to work on the algae project in its phase 1 cycle. Even after algae grew up, I am continually helping the BPA employees on special projects or working with new algae strains, making relationships with chemical suppliers and looking for ways to improve and grow. I’ve also been deemed the plant tour guide as I was the youngest employee at the plant, and I have gotten pretty good at it considering the number of parties interested in the algae project.
Favorite thing about Green Plains? The local plant has a lot of power to make its own way. The corporate body oversees and aids the plant, but for the majority of non-critical decisions we have the say. It makes it seem less like a big conglomerate and more like a co-op where we still do what we need to but can get help or direction when we need to.
How important do you think the role of ethanol, even algae, is in our future? Ethanol is probably not the final solution to the energy crisis, but it is a vital step to getting to the final solution. Ethanol provides the funding, expertise, and backbone to make other future biofuels like algae, biobutanol, and even other forms of energy possible. It will keep us out of wars and make jobs and renewable fuels right here, rather than shipping our money overseas.
How important is the future of feed and fuel to our small midwest communities like Shenandoah? I grew up in a small community that was struggling and dying. Looking around Shenandoah, thriving local businesses, strong economy, and [a community that is] self sustaining, it is pretty apparent that the plant feeds the area more than with just the salaries that go out to the employees. We also bring in hundreds of contractors, vendors, and investors who spend money in town and keep businesses growing. We might even be able to start attracting other companies to our area once the algae starts producing. This could be HUGE for the town.
What makes you excited to get up in the morning? Knowing what I have to do that day. Each day is something different so it is nice to get up and think that today will be nothing like yesterday, and tomorrow won’t be the same either.
What is one of your long-term goals? I would like to eventually move up within the company, and hopefully continue to grow with the algae project once it begins to expand to other locations, i.e. "Corporate Director" of Algae Ops.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do for fun? It’s not fun, but all I do is work on remodeling my house. Once I get that finished then fishing, hunting, and camping are tops on my list.
Advice or words of wisdom for people who may be interested in a future with Green Plains? Green Plains is definitely a place where you want to work. It is a fun and challenging atmosphere where you can always learn new things and make a difference with your ideas or suggestions. It [Green Plains] is constantly growing, changing, and improving so you know we will be around for the long haul, regardless of what the market looks like.
Check out the video of Ryan talking about distillers grains.