EXCLUSIVE: GNP's Helgeson ready to rest easy
by Erica Shaffer
|Mike Helgeson (left) leaves GNP Company in the capable hands of his successor Steve Jurek and Jason Logsdon, CEO, The Maschhoffs (right).
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Mike Helgeson has taken GNP Company off his worry list.
Helgeson, who spent 21 years as CEO of GNP, said he is looking forward to spending more time with family and friends, and perhaps traveling a bit. But one thing he won't be doing is fretting about the future of the company where he dedicated half his professional career.
“I’ve been working full-time in the business for 40 years, and I’ve been in the position of CEO for 21 years,” Helgeson told MeatPoultry.com. “Actually, I worked in the business part-time since I was 10, so I thought it was time to pursue other interests.
“I have great confidence in the leadership team of the company, and I feel the company has a great future before it,” he added.
Helgeson joined GNP Company (formerly Gold’n Plump Poultry) in 1974. He has since worked in various positions within the company, including new products manager in the sales and marketing division; project manager in the broiler division; personnel manager at the Cold Spring, Minn., processing plant; and purchasing/elevator manager in the feed and grain division. He became CEO of the company in 1993.
In October 2013, he was elected 2013-2014 chairman of the National Chicken Council, an appointment he called an honor to represent the chicken industry.
Helgeson also served as CEO of Maschhoffs Family Foods’ new chicken business unit. The Maschhoffs announced its acquisition of St. Cloud, Minn.-based GNP Company in December 2013. Since then, Helgeson focused his attention on providing a smooth transition for the company and its employees.
“The process has gone even better than expected,” Helgeson said. “The Maschhoffs are a great company to be a part of. We have similar values and culture. They are very much aligned around growing the business going forward.
“We’re also excited that we are finishing our sixth consecutive year of profitability,” he noted.
Joining forces with a successful pork operation like The Maschhoffs led to professional and personal fulfillment — of sorts — for Helgeson.
“I’m eating more pork than I thought I would,” he joked. “I learned how to cook it properly.”
Helgeson said he will be available to work in a consulting role on a limited basis for a period of time. In fact, he only wants to support the company, and is prepared to do whatever that might entail. Otherwise, he has complete confidence in his successor, Steve Jurek, who most recently has served as the executive vice president of Operations and Administration for GNP.
“I’m very excited and thrilled for the opportunity,” Jurek said. “I appreciate the confidence that Jason and The Maschhoffs have shown in me as well as our whole leadership team.”
Jurek said he looks forward to growing the business and engaging the company's employees.
“We will remain customer focused, and respond to the ever-changing needs of our market and maintaining the caring culture created by the Helgesons,” he said.
Jurek joined GNP in 1977. He served in a variety of positions before his promotion to executive vice president of Operations and Administration in 1997. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Metropolitan State Univ., St. Paul, Minn., and a Master of Business Administration with a Finance emphasis from the Univ. of St. Thomas, St. Paul. Jurek's breadth of experience as a businessman and his tenure at GNP put him on The Maschhoffs CEO Jason Logsdon's list of potential CEOs.
“Jason led the process and made the final decision along with their board,” Helgeson said. [Logsdon] considered all options, and came to the conclusion that Steve was the best candidate to lead the company going forward.
“Steve has over 37 years of experience in our company,” Helgeson added. “He’s brought a base of knowledge [to the job] and has proven himself to be a capable and trusted leader.”
Jurek has just as much confidence in Logsdon, as Logsdon has in him.
“Jason is a very astute and a very good person,” Jurek said. “He’s very knowledgeable about the business, and especially animal agriculture. Jason’s word has been rock-solid from the time of the acquisition — even before we signed the documents in December. What he’s said at the very start of the process through the acquisition up ‘til now — he never wavered.”
So, it makes sense that Mike Helgeson can retire knowing the company he led for 21 years is in strong, caring hands.
“We've come through a very volatile time in our industry,” Helgeson said. “I think it’s a real tribute to the capability of our team members and our growers to build the company to what it is today.”