From the President, Patti Gartland: Are We There Yet?

I love to travel. Well, actually, I love to explore new places and experiences. The actual “traveling” part of exploring new places and experiences isn’t generally all that much fun. So, when my husband, Bob, came home with the news that he’d be traveling to Munich for a work related event in mid-September, I quickly replied, “Me too!”. Bob works for Pan-O-Gold Baking Company (a GSDC investor) and the IBA Munich event bills itself as “the world’s leading trade fair event for the bakery, confectionery and snacks industry”. With 77,000+ attendees, that seems an appropriate description.

The time I spent at the IBA event was just a fraction of what Bob, Robin Alton – President and CEO, and Ryan Wahl – Director of Manufacturing, from Pan O Gold Baking Company did. However, I spent enough time wandering through the exhibit buildings to gain a new level of appreciation for the complexity and capital intensive nature of the food production process. Pan-O-Gold Baking Co., bakers of Country Hearth & Village Hearth bread products, is a family-owned company with three state-of-the-art production facilities in St. Cloud (also the corporate headquarters), Sun Prairie, WI and Fargo, ND. They distribute across an 11 state area with over 1,200 employees.

Our travel plans quickly came together. We’d start in Munich where the trade show event was being held, then travel to Melk, Austria where we’d be guests at the Melk Abbey. And we’d finish our trip by spending three days in Prague, Czech Republic.

A Nice Mix of Work and Play
Hallo Munich! Despite our lack of lederhosen and dirndl, we managed to acclimate quickly to the pre-Oktoberfest festivities that greeted us at nearly every turn. While Bob, Robin and Ryan devoted long hours to the IBA trade show event, I seized the opportunity to make a side trip to the Geringhoff plant in Ahlen, Germany where I spent the better part of the day with one of the owners, Daniel, and corporate CFO, Frank. The primary goal for my visit was to assure we’re maintaining a strong working relationship with Geringhoff corporate leadership and to reinforce our commitment to assisting in any way possible to assure their newly established US facility in St. Cloud succeeds and grows. For purposes of this article, I’ll simply summarize by saying, mission accomplished. However, we look forward to meeting and welcoming Tosh Brinkerhoff, newly hired Geringhoff USA CEO, at our November 6th Board of Advisors meeting. Tosh will be providing a 15 minute presentation highlighting Geringhoff as the “Featured Business” element of the meeting.

I was also afforded the opportunity to make an introductory visit on behalf of the MN Trade Office to a very large company (+65,000 employees working in more than 100 countries) near Munich. The recent federal designation that our region is part of in the MN Medical Manufacturing Partnership is a tool/resource that could have strong alignment and benefit to potential production expansion for this company into MN.

Experiencing History in the Making
What we initially lauded as great timing in escaping Munich before the masses converged to begin the two week long Oktoberfest celebration actually turned out to be ill timed as a result of the border control actions imposed by Germany in response to the crisis in Syria. We checked out of our hotel and arrived at the train station only to find that all trains out of Germany had been cancelled. We rebooked for the night train with no guarantees that it wouldn’t also be cancelled. Twelve hours later we were relieved to board the train and travel through the night arriving in Melk the following morning. The remainder of our trip was exclusively devoted to personal vacation time. And it was truly delightful.

It’s a Small World
I’m often reminded of just how small our world truly is and this trip delivered on that reminder. During our 10 day travels in Europe, we had three chance encounters with folks from back home. Our first was at an opening reception event for the IBA trade show where I spotted Cold Spring Bakery owner Lynn Sherman just a few tables away. Our second was as we checked in at our hotel in Prague where we bumped into Terry and Judy Rothstein (Continental Press) and Scott and Mary Kay May. And, finally, during our layover in Paris in route back to MSP we ran into Rollie and Barbara Anderson (ATS – another GSDC investor) and their travel companions. Amazing.

It was a great trip with a perfect blend of work and play. But, in the words of Judy Garland (no relation), there’s no place like home.

Patti Gartland at Geringhoff in Ahlen, Germany with Daniel Hansmeier, CEO & Co-owner, and Frank Laudehr, CFO.

Patti Gartland at Geringhoff in Ahlen, Germany with
Daniel Hansmeier, CEO & Co-owner, and Frank Laudehr, CFO.

L to R, Robin Alton, Pan-O-Gold Baking CEO & President, Patti Gartland, Bob Gartland, Pan-O-Gold Baking General Manager.

L to R, Robin Alton, Pan-O-Gold Baking CEO & President, Patti Gartland,
Bob Gartland, Pan-O-Gold Baking General Manager.

Posted on October 31, 2015 and filed under President's Column.