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Past FEW scholarship winner now consultant

The presentation of scholarship money has been part of the International Fuel Ethanol Workshop & Expo since the early 2000s. The focus of today’s blog is a scholarship winner from eight years ago.
By Holly Jessen | August 11, 2014

This year at FEW, I received a message from long-time BBI International employee, Sue Conroe. She had bumped into a 2006 FEW scholarship winner and was excited to learn he was still active in the ethanol industry. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more.

Nick Bowdish, currently an ethanol industry consultant, was one of six scholarship winners in 2006.The students, who came from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri, all attended the event and posed for a picture with their giant checks. Although 2008 was the last year that scholarship winners came to FEW for a formal presentation and group photo, I know some of the scholarship winners have attended in recent years.

Although we weren’t able to connect at FEW or immediately after the event, Bowdish and I did recently get a chance to talk on the phone. Here’s what I learned. First off, he credits his exposure to the ethanol industry at that 2006 FEW with being “one of the main influencing factors on why I ended up pursing the career path I did.”

Not only was the money helpful with paying for his education, but he said coming to the conference really helped expose him to the exciting things going on in the ethanol industry. “I would say one of the things that I walked away with was that, as an industry, there were a lot of opportunities for a young person coming out of school to No. 1, jump right into a project and an industry, and No. 2, have the ability to learn a lot and grow in job growth and promotion, fairly quickly.”

Bowdish was exposed to the ethanol industry in the early 2000s, when Badger State Ethanol was built in his hometown of Monroe, Wis. In fact, he invested a couple thousand dollars into the project.  “The rest is history,” he said.

In late 2005 or early 2006, right before he attended FEW, Bowdish met Ron Fagen of Fagen Inc., another pivotal moment on his career path. Then, in the spring of 2007, he graduated from The University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business management. After completing college, Bowdish went to work at Fagen Inc.’s construction business in Granite Falls, Minn.

After about a year and a half, Fagen asked Bowdish to take over as general manager of Platinum Ethanol in Arthur, Iowa. He continued in that role until September 2013, when that plant was sold to Flint Hills Resources LLC. “I had a fantastic opportunity there and loved every second of it,” he said, adding that he appreciated being able to work with so many people, including plant employees and others in the ethanol industry, while serving as general manager of that plant.

Bowdish’s next move was to form N Bowdish Co., a development and consulting business serving the ethanol industry, of which he is president. In the past nearly a year he’s worked primarily in three areas. First, he’s been assisting multiple existing ethanol plants in completing the necessary U.S. EPA modeling and application to prove that the facilities have achieved the required greenhouse gas emission improvement and can therefore generate RINs (renewable identification numbers) above and beyond their grandfathered capacity. He has also been working with plant boards and managers on adding additional grain storage. Finally, has been active in true project development for companies interested in growth, he said, adding that he’s unable to share more details until those projects are made public.

As always, I enjoyed getting to know more about someone with experience working at an ethanol plant. I also found it interesting to learn more about what impact the scholarship and attending FEW had on a past winner, especially since I have served on the scholarship selection committee for the last five years. If you know of someone working at an ethanol production facility or a past FEW scholarship winner still working in the ethanol industry that I should interview for my blog, send me an email at hjessen@bbiinternational.com. Please include their contact information and a little bit about what makes their story interesting.