The foundation of Central States Enterprises was established by Eugene Kraus, Sr. In 1922, Eugene Kraus graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School with a BS in Economics. He immediately began a career in agribusiness with his fathers’ grain and seed business. In 1931, Kraus left the family operation to serve as vice-president of the Allied Seed Company, a subsidiary of Allied Mills. The Allied Seed division was later sold to G.L.F. and Mr. Kraus served as manager of the Fort Wayne, Indiana plant in both procurement and sales. It is important to note that throughout this period Mr. Kraus was slowly building the foundation of our company by the personal acquisition of several elevators located throughout Indiana.
In 1947, Central States Seed Service was formed through the acquisition of the Ackerman Seed Company of Lima, Ohio for the price of one hundred thousand dollars. Eugene Kraus owned fifty percent of the company, with the balance of ownership limited to five others representing grain and seed firms. The scope of operation was two tiered; included the interests of the seed operation and grain storage. As time passed, Mr. Kraus purchased the remaining fifty percent share in the company to gain full ownership of Central States Seed Service. He later determined that the grain storage and elevator business had become the most profitable part of the organization and sold the seed plant in 1957.
Elevator operations flourished due to government programs which offered incentives for grain storage. At this point, the facilities were located at Bourbon, LaOtto, Lafayette, Romney, Swannington, and New Haven, Indiana. These facilities collectively represented six million bushels of storage throughout northern Indiana. In 1969 these independent operations were merged into Central States Grain Company, Inc. In order to improve profitability and add depth of vision to the operation, Mr. Kraus hired Richard Shura as his successor. Mr. Shura gained significant experience while serving seventeen years with Central Soya Company in accounting and merchandising. In 1974 Richard Shura assumed responsibility for the operation of Central States Grain. As an incentive to his heightened responsibilities, he was given the option to purchase the company at a future date.
In May of 1977, Richard Shura and others exercised options to purchase the business from Eugene Kraus, Sr. After evaluating the benefits and earnings potential of each facility, Mr. Shura made the decision to sell five of the Central States grain elevators and focus solely on one facility located in New Haven, Indiana. He believed the facility was an obvious choice for a number of reasons. First, the facility held 2.5 million bushels in flat building storage with space available for later expansion. Second, the site was located along the main Norfolk Southern railroad line with the capability of loading 100 car unit trains through a segmented loading procedure. Lastly, it was determined that crop production throughout northeast Indiana was adequate in quantity and quality to meet their grain marketing needs. As technology advanced in grain loading capabilities and railroad equipment, this location became a critical advantage. Central States Grain quickly gained favor with the Norfolk Southern Railroad and emerged as a dependable origin for grain shipment.
The mid to late 1970’s were both exciting and trying times for Central States Grain. Mr. Shura assembled a team of merchandisers to form the “Central States Grain and Trading Company.” These traders were responsible for merchandising grain through the New Haven elevator and other grain operations throughout the Midwest. Although New Haven was capable of loading 100 car unit trains, the bulk of grain was sent in 3 car units to the southeast poultry and feed markets. Understanding this necessary grain movement led Mr. Shura to explore the possibilities for expansion in the emerging southeast marketplace. In southern Georgia, irrigated ground was transforming the state into a legitimate source for corn and soybean production. However, few grain storage facilities were in place to meet this flow of grain and provide service to the thriving Georgia and Florida feed grain demand. Seizing the opportunity, Central States built a grain elevator, Sowega Grain, in Camilla, Georgia. Sowega Grain (Southwest Georgia Grain) served as the cornerstone for the development of our alliances in the southeast markets.
The 1980’s marked a period of rapid growth and diversity for our company. In 1980 Central States Grain, Inc., Central States Grain & Trading Company and Sowega Grain, Inc. became Central States Enterprises, Inc. This consolidation brought the interests of the company into a singular entity. Meanwhile, an unceasing demand in the southeast led our charge into Florida to meet the needs of the dairy industry. In 1984, a feed, ingredient, and bagging facility opened in McAlpin, Florida. A year later we opened the doors to a wholesale grain, feed, and ingredient unloading and transfer facility in Lake City, Florida. The success of both operations led to a consolidation and expansion project at the Lake City site. Today, the Lake City operation remains a primary source of feed ingredients for many dairy operations, and offers a diverse selection of bagged seeds and feed products for retail sale throughout Florida.
In 1987 the New Haven facility added 2.75 million bushels of upright concrete storage. The purpose was to better serve our customers. Since then, we have concentrated on making the New Haven terminal elevator the best in the Midwest. This goal was met with continuous construction, facility improvements and a focus on the needs of our customers. The New Haven elevator currently has over 12 million bushels of storage space and an unmatched team of merchants, production and maintenance personnel. It is with pride that we have transformed a former government grain storage facility into a force in the marketplace.
The southeast regional office of Central States Enterprises was opened in Altamonte Springs, Florida in 1989. This move was rooted in the need for proximity to our customers in the southeastern marketplace. This intention was later reinforced in 1990 through a partnership with Cagles, Inc. at the Camilla, Georgia grain elevator. This merger offered Cagles 50% ownership in the operation, but more importantly guaranteed a southeast destination for our grain shipments. Cagles subsequently built a feed grain operation behind the elevator, with Central States providing the grain necessary for production.
In 1992 the personnel of both the Ft. Wayne, Indiana and Altamonte Springs, Florida offices were moved to Heathrow, Florida. Our corporate headquarters brought together our team of domestic and export traders, logistics, hedging and accounting personnel. Each employee contributes an important function and is critical to the ongoing success of our organization. It has been our focus to assemble and develop the brightest team of professionals in the industry. Through years of quality service and many prosperous alliances, the agribusiness community has recognized that our strengths lie in fostering customer relationships, prompt attention to market opportunities, and calculated risk management.
At Central States Enterprises we always search for the next opportunity. In June of 1996 we announced the construction of a terminal grain elevator in Montpelier, Indiana. This state-of- the-art operation highlighted the latest achievements in structural design and loading/unloading technology. This facility is located on the main line of the Norfolk Southern railroad and initially housed 4.0 million bushels, with plans for further expansion. This project was initiated to further provide superior service to producers in Indiana and Ohio. Moreover, this effort has strengthened our competitive presence with increased sales to the southeast markets and to the gulf for export. Today, the facility boasts over 17.0 million bushels of grain storage capacity and continues to improve its ability to unload grain for producers and load-out unit trains efficiently.
In 2013, Central States Enterprises relocated to a new office in Heathrow. This unique opportunity gave us the ability to design a trading room that best leverages our strength in flexibility, cooperation and innovation. The improved environment provides our employees with great working conditions.
Innovative ideas, market savvy, and teamwork have vaulted Central States to the forefront in the agribusiness community. Our word is our bond and fortunately success has followed our drive and vision. It is with great zest and enthusiasm that we consider the future. Whether we reach beyond the boundaries of agribusiness or narrow the focus within our current trade, the principles of consistent service and customer focus will remain unshaken.