Nationwide Agribusiness helps Greensburg’s vital co-op get back in business
A ray of light after giant tornado ravages Kansas farming community
Des Moines, Iowa— After the most powerful tornado to hit American soil in eight years drilled its deadly path across Greensburg, Kansas, the only business left standing was the concrete grain elevator belonging to the Southern Plains Cooperative.
The world saw television coverage of the destruction left by the giant tornado’s 200 mile per hour winds and the grain elevator standing defiantly amidst rubble. For many of this farming community’s 1,600 residents, the elevator was the only part of their home town they could recognize. And with harvest season near, seeing the elevator intact was a sign of hope.
The co-op has been the lifeblood of this farming community and a Nationwide Agribusiness customer for more than 20 years. While the dollar value of the claim isn’t near the industry’s largest, it could be the worst claim to ever happen in the co-op arena from a customer standpoint.
“This was about more than just handing our customer a check. Southern Plains’ success is a vital component to this community’s comeback,” said Brett Harman, president of Nationwide Agribusiness. “Our efforts focused on getting them back in business immediately.”
Mark Whalen, a commercial claims specialist at Nationwide Agribusiness, arrived at the site shortly after the storm. Though his job takes him to many disaster areas, he was amazed by the power of the F5 tornado.
“Complete devastation,” said Whalen. “To look out and see no standing structures in an entire town is mind boggling.”
Whalen’s first concern was identifying parts of the business that could be salvaged. The tornado blew the caps off the grain elevator, so taking care of wet grain became a priority as they worked to salvage inventory.
After helping the co-op mitigate losses and keep some of their operations running by using other locations, Whalen helped them set up temporary offices and place ads in local newspapers to let their customers know they are still in business.
“It’s overwhelming in those first days. There is so much going through their minds. We help them see a bigger picture,” Whalen explained. “We help them make sense of what has happened, but we also help control expenses by guiding them to cost effective alternatives.”
Nationwide Agribusiness even hired the co-op workers to help clean up the site so they would still have paychecks coming in on Fridays.
“We’re able to see opportunities – things unique that others might not think about,” Harman said. “We know enough about these catastrophic situations to find innovative solutions that help our customers stay ahead of the game.”
Southern Plains was partially back in business just days after the disaster and is now getting ready for the wheat harvest season.
“Nationwide Agribusiness reacted fast and was able to assist me in quickly getting Greensburg location back in business,” said Ron Gruber, general manager of the co-op. “I was really pleased with Mark’s work. One person couldn’t have done all of this. This has truly been a team effort.”
In 1982, Nationwide® Agribusiness Insurance Company (formerly Farmland Insurance) became a part of Nationwide® Insurance, an insurance and financial services organization based in Columbus, Ohio. Nationwide, based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the world, with more than $160 billion in assets. Nationwide ranks #104 on the Fortune 500 list. Today, Nationwide Agribusiness company serves more than 3,500 commercial customers in agribusinesses and adjacent markets, and together with its affiliated companies, Nationwide Insurance and Allied Insurance, is the largest farmowners insurance writer in the country. For more information: www.NationwideAgribusiness.com.
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