Poet appoints new president, Broin to focus on policy issues

By Kris Bevill | March 03, 2011

Poet LLC, one of the largest ethanol producers in the world, recently announced that Jeff Lautt will replace founder Jeff Broin as president of the company. Broin will retain his role as CEO and chairman of the board for the company.

The change in leadership will allow Broin to focus more of his energy on long-term strategy for the company and the ethanol industry, according to Poet. “Many of the challenges Poet faces are shared by the entire ethanol industry,” Broin said. “As co-chairman of Growth Energy, I also look forward to working with others in the industry to face those challenges head-on.”

Lautt said Broin will continue to be the face of Poet, adding that Broin’s 23 years in the industry has given him unparalleled expertise regarding ethanol’s political and macro economic factors. “I think this is perfect for him, to be able to devote more time and energy to that element,” Lautt said. “This change will allow him to spend even more of his time on those macro elements that need his attention, both from a company and an industry perspective.”

Lautt joined Poet in 2005 and served most recently as executive vice president of corporate operations, where he was responsible for all operational business units within the company. Prior to joining Poet, Lautt spent 14 years in the emergency vehicle industry, serving as president of a Midwestern-based fire truck manufacturing company.

In his new role as president of Poet, Lautt will continue to oversee the day-to-day operations of all of the company’s businesses. Poet currently operates 27 ethanol plants throughout the Midwest, producing a combined total of more than 1.6 billion gallons of ethanol and 9 billion pounds of distillers grains annually. Lautt said his short-term goals are to maintain the company’s track record of growth and industry leadership. Long-term goals include growing the company’s competitive advantage.

According to EPM’s most recent data, Poet is currently the second largest U.S. producer of ethanol. Archer Daniels Midland Co. retains the No. 1 spot—producing approximately 1.7 billion gallons of ethanol annually. Valero Renewable Fuels LLC is the third largest producer of ethanol in the U.S., making about 1.1 billion gallons of ethanol each year.

Broin formed Growth Energy in 2008 to promote domestically produced ethanol as the nation’s best option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependency on foreign oil. Notable members of the group in addition to Poet include ICM Inc. and Green Plains Renewable Energy Inc. In 2010, the group proposed a policy initiative to redirect ethanol incentives toward investments in ethanol infrastructure expansion and to require all automobiles sold in the U.S. to be flex-fuel vehicles. According to comments made recently by National Corn Growers Association CEO Rick Tolman, Growth Energy is also collaborating with the NCGA, the Renewable Fuels Association and the American Coalition for Ethanol to form a long-term ethanol policy strategy. Tolman said the Ethanol Road Map will be released to Congress by the end of April.