Strategic partnership helps POET, USD meet needs

April 11, 2018

This piece is presented by the USD Beacom School of Business.

POET CEO Jeff Broin had a memorable message when he spoke recently as part of the USD Beacom School of Business Distinguished Speaker Series.

“I was able to share with the students and others in the audience how POET evolved from one small refinery to the largest producer of biofuels in the world,” he said.

“I talked a lot about the passion and perseverance and hard work it took to grow this industry from its infancy into a major part of the energy picture of the country and now worldwide.”

He also looked toward a future he believes depends on biofuels.

“I explained what it means for South Dakota, how ag is impacted and the entire Midwest is impacted by our industry,” Broin said.

Continuing to grow POET will depend on the skills developed by many watching in his audience.

With $13.5 billion in annual revenue – the largest company by revenue in South Dakota – “having the best available talent in the industry is very important,” POET chief financial officer Jeff Pinkerman said.

“A very large part of our workforce is from the local universities. Having that talent pipeline is vital to the health and future of our business.”

POET and USD have forged a strategic relationship in recent years that Venky Venkatachalam, dean of the Beacom School of Business, said demonstrates the school’s vision to serve as an engine for economic development statewide.

“We want to establish strategic partnerships with businesses to help them recruit and retain world-class talent,” Venkatachalam said. “We have intellectual capacity and great faculty who can do that. With POET, we want to help them succeed and continue their prominence in the nation as the largest clean-fuel manufacturer. They need more workforce, and we want to help them develop it and improve productivity.”

The multidimensional relationship between the business and the school took a big step forward in 2017 with the formation of the POET Center for Business Analytics.

USD dean Venky Venkatachalam, Kyle Gilley of Poet, Thomas Tiahrt, Jeff Pinkerman of Poet, USD president James Abbott.

“The Beacom School of Business is already ranked nationally, and our hope was to do our part in bringing yet another advantage to the school,” Pinkerman said. “We have a very complex business that requires exceptional financial and analytical talent. Historically, much of that talent has come from USD. It is our hope that our investment here will strengthen an already exceptional talent pool and will provide financial talent needed to support the growth here at POET.”

The partnership creates value for both, Venkatachalam added.

“The layer through all verticals is business analytics. Marketing is becoming digital marketing. Finance is becoming financial engineering or fintech. Through all business disciplines, from supply chain to manufacturing, everything is data-driven, so it’s a priority for the business school,” he said.

The partnership with POET allows resources for teaching, building the new Master of Science in Business Analytics degree recently approved by the Board of Regents, research and outreach.

“POET sees the big picture,” Venkatachalam said. “It’s a larger company, and they have the need for analytics, not just across finance and accounting but in supply-chain inventory, production and operations. They see value in becoming a very forward-looking, progressive company and see how both executive education and the analytics center contribute significantly to their workforce.”

Several POET leaders have gone back to school through USD for advanced degrees, and the two also are working together on other opportunities for executive education.

“We are fortunate to have such a quality business school in our backyard,” Pinkerman said.

Broin agreed.

“We’ve really enjoyed our relationship with USD and the School of Business,” he said. “POET has hired many USD graduates, and we see the relationship with USD as very important moving into the future.”

Businesses wishing to learn more about opportunities to partner strategically with the Beacom School of Business may contact Dean Venkatachalam at

USD offers new master’s degree

The recently approved Master of Science in Business Analytics program will be one of the first new graduate degrees offered by the USD Beacom School of Business in more than 30 years, accepting students immediately and starting classes this summer.

The program will offer in-depth knowledge and expertise in data management, analysis, visualization and optimization along with a wealth of resources, such as access to SAS software, the recently established Poet Center for Business Analytics, as well as connections to a variety of industry leaders.

In support of the business analytics degree, USD officials cited labor force data showing that management analyst and market research analyst positions are expected to grow between 8 percent to 20 percent in South Dakota through 2024.

The Beacom School of Business is hosting an open house for anyone interested in learning more about the business analytics program at 3 p.m. April 13 in Beacom Hall Room 128.  For information, contact Linda Halliburton.

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Strategic partnership helps POET, USD meet needs

POET and the USD Beacom School of Business have established a unique strategic partnership that could serve as a model for other businesses.

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