Cresbard, SD native Mike Stanley parlayed the degree he earned through Mitchell Technical Institute’s Electrical Construction and Maintenance program into a career in the agricultural plant industry. After three decades spent working in plants in Luverne, MN, Stanley grabbed the chance to move closer to home.
He began working for Iowa Beef Processors in Luverne in the late 1980s. “I just needed a job until something better came along,” said Stanley. He kept at it, and by the time he was on the job ten years, he had advanced to Maintenance Manager.
Industry changes closed the Luverne IBP plant in 1998. At about the same time, a new ethanol plant, Agri-Energy was under construction, and Stanley came on board as Maintenance Supervisor.
“I had to change gears about the time the ethanol plant in Luverne was being built,” said Stanley. “There were a lot of houses for sale after the beef plant closed. My wife Dee and I were raising three kids, so I applied for a job at the plant there as Maintenance Manager.”
His kids were grown when the position of Plant Manager at the Ringneck Energy facility in Onida opened up. “A few things led me to apply for the position,” said Stanley. “One, it’s a little closer to home, and a chance to see more of my dad.” Alas, both his only sibling, an older sister, and his father have passed away since the Stanleys moved to Onida, but he did have chances to spend time with each of them before their deaths. The move has also proven to be an occasion to reconnect with a pair of his best friends from high school who reside in Pierre.
Stanley says that working in the Ringneck facility has been an opportunity to work in a brand new facility.
“The new facility is better than a 20-year-old facility,” said Stanley. “the old plants and the new plants do the same thing, but the new plant is so much more efficient.”
“I like this better than the old plant. The equipment is set up better, which makes it easier for people to work on things, and there are technological improvements at this facility that an older plant would have to do an expansion to utilize.”
The Stanleys have found Onida a community of “very friendly people.”
“That’s always a concern when you’re a new guy, will I be accepted in my new town,” said Stanley. “I feel like we’ve been accepted really well.”
Stanley adds that many of the new hires at the Ringneck Energy plant have been locals, and there are “a lot from Pierre. Our new Lab Manager came from Iowa, and she just loves it up here.”
Regarding getting the new plant online, things have “gone well.
Construction was a bit late, and the late blizzards slowed things down a bit, but we got through that, and we’re running consistent now,” said Stanley. “We’re working out the kinks, and all the big issues have been resolved. Things should just keep getting better.”
Plant manager is not a new role for Stanley who says that he does quite a bit of record keeping. “Energy use and production have to be recorded for the EPA,” said Stanley. He also fields questions from and offers assistance to department managers. “I’ve been a maintenance manager and an operations manager, so I know
both of those jobs. I like to trouble shoot problems; some general managers are more business minded or number crunchers- I’m more hands on.”
Stanley hasn’t had time yet to take in the plethora of activities in the outdoors offered by the area. “I haven’t had a chance to,” said Stanley. “I haven’t been a fisherman since high school, but I’d like to try that again.”
Over the years, Stanley and Dee have done some motorcycling, but he “sold my bike last year,” said Stanley. “We have a convertible we like to cruise around in a little.”
They stick pretty close to home in their forays. “I’m not a big world traveler,” said Stanley. “I’m happier at home.” Stanley began experimenting with a router he received for Christmas, and now counts woodworking as an activity he particularly enjoys. “I need to build a garage so I can set up my shop here.” With his router, Stanley has made “a lot of signs, Harley Davidson signs that look rustic, and sports teams signs – whatever I feel like doing.”
Their three kids include oldest daughter Meghann, a cabinet maker in Sioux Falls; a middle daughter Alex who lives in Luverne and works in an Iowa medical lab; and a son Bryan who recently graduated college with a double music major and sings and plays guitar with a band.
Dee Stanley hasn’t yet found a job, and “right now that works out good as she’s been helping with my dad’s estate,” said Stanley. “Right now, she’s busier than me.”