- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 2, 2015

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - Pendleton Grain Growers expects to make a profit next harvest after losing $7.9 million in 2014 and overstating $10 million on year-end earnings prior to 2012.

Several cuts made by the board of directors helped stem the financial bleeding, said General Manager Rick Jacobson on Monday, according to the East Oregonian (http://bit.ly/1GWctLO).

Those cuts include the decision to shed six retail stores throughout Eastern Oregon, drop the agronomy division and lay off 158 employees.

“We’re probably in the best cash position than we’ve been in for a long time,” said Jacobson. “We have a wonderful relationship with our lender. I’m pleased with where we are. We’re positioned to move forward.”

The focus has shifted back to the co-ops core areas, he said, including grain, seed, energy, transportation and a new irrigation subsidiary that opened this year.

Although the downsizing was painful—it left just 67 of 225 employees with a job—Jacobson said it was necessary to ensure that the co-op remains valuable.

He said PGG serves 1,850 members in Eastern Oregon and Washington and traces its roots back to the Great Depression.

“I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t think it was worth the effort,” said Jacobson. “It is an iconic business, and it’s a brand Pendleton can be proud of.”

The co-op has also consolidated its debt through CoBank, with a $15 million term loan and $20 million line of credit.

PGG hired Jacobson, a Pendleton native, in 2012 to help lead the 86-year-old co-op after the resignation of former CEO Allen Waggoner.

Jackson said they knew right away that things wouldn’t be business as usual. PGG looked back through the books and found that it had overstated $10 million of year-end earnings before Jacobson’s hiring.

Retail stores in Pendleton, Hermiston, Milton-Freewater, Athena, Island city and Joseph closed their doors when PGG failed to find a buyer willing to keep the locations open.

But the Island City store was transition into Precision Rain, which specializes in irrigation systems and employs 17 people.

“I think our growers there are pleased,” Jacobson said. “I’m pretty optimistic it’s going to do well.”

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Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.info

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