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Thursday, 02 June 2011 11:55

UFA getting back to its rural roots

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By Ric Swihart
Southern Alberta
UFA can compete in the big pond, but with a new management team in place, the farmer-owned co-operative has its sights set on its base of operations —  small-town Alberta.

Bob Nelson, named president last year, said recently United Farmers of Alberta wants to reconnect with customers, “and that makes it exciting for us for the future.

“We were based in small towns, serving people particularly in agriculture, and now we want to refocus on local management. We will have much more decision making at the local level to build store business by knowing the local needs of customers.”

He predicted a strong 2011 because UFA is rebuilding its foundation with the strong management team and strong people in the field.

“Now, we have to execute day in and day out,” said Nelson.

Ron Schinnour, a Calgary native,

is the new UFA vice-president for agribusiness. He returns to his roots following an extensive career with stops with Agrium, United Agricultural Products and Monsanto, with time in Winnipeg, Toronto, Mexico City and the firm’s world headquarters in St. Louis.

When UFA came knocking, Schinnour recognized it as one of the largest agricultural businesses in Alberta with farmer control and a dynamic management plan. Scinnour wanted to be part of it. He admitted UFA might not always be the biggest player, but customers know what they get since most customers are part of ownership.

Schinnour said not all market areas for UFA are the same. The new thrust will include making sure the right products are in the right places — the product line meets the area’s needs.

He said UFA has divided Alberta into seven specialized areas. Some are strong in feedlots, some are mostly grain and some are heavy into cow-calf operations. All those have special product and service needs and UFA will have it available. The co-op will work hard to move products and services into areas where they are short, cutting inconvenience for customers.

UFA has been around more than 100 years. While the farm community is the base market, and will be part of the building marketing program, UFA has a place for the work-a-day consumer, especially when considering its network of sports stores like the one on Mayor Magrath Drive S.

Perhaps its greatest strength is the onsite staff element where serving customers who most often are co-op members is paramount. It also has a strong regional support staff.

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