By Lynette Cockerell
In 2005-2006, PCCA handled approximately 28 percent of the entire U.S. cotton crop. Much of that was marketed by nine PCCA employees. With access to approximately three to five million bales annually, the cooperative’s marketing staff offers a larger volume of cotton than any other U.S. cotton merchant, and selling such a large quantity of cotton keeps all nine of them very busy.
PCCA’s marketing staff sells cotton to U.S. textile mills, foreign textile mills and the cotton merchant trade. The employees monitor farm program benefits, futures markets, other hedging mechanisms, and all cost factors on a daily basis to optimize total returns to PCCA members. Ultimately, all farm program benefits related to marketing are processed by PCCA staff and distributed back to the members in the payments for their cotton.
Additionally, the department manages both the South Texas and the West Texas/Oklahoma/Kansas cotton marketing pools. The pool marketing alternative has grown throughout the years in both volume and popularity because it allows producers to focus on cotton production, leaving the marketing to PCCA’s trained professionals with the added supervision of committees comprised of pool members. In 2005, the two pools combined received a record volume, exceeding the previous 2004 crop record by more than 368,000 bales.
“The basic job of PCCA’s Marketing Department is to sell our members’cotton” says Lonnie Winters, PCCA’s vice president of marketing. “We leave no stone unturned when it comes to getting the very best price for cotton, and although our staff is small, each person is an expert in their field.”
Winters certainly has been in the cotton business long enough to identify an expert. He grew up on a cotton farm in Lone Wolf, Okla., and went on to manage the cooperative gin in Granite, Okla., after attending Oklahoma State University. In 1977, Winters accepted a position with a cotton merchant and later transferred to Lubbock, Texas. He came on board as PCCA’s sales manager in 1993 and accepted his current position as vice president of marketing in 2004.
“I initially came to work at PCCA because everyone in the cotton business knows the staff is second to none, and I’m proud to be a part of the work we do here,” Winters says. “The magnitude of things this cooperative accomplishes with such a small number of employees is amazing, and it all translates into profits for our producers in the long run,” he adds.
Winters credits the success and cohesiveness of the marketing department to meetings held each morning. Everyone in the department knows what each staff member is working on and can offer assistance, if needed. Thus, the department truly functions as a team.
“This business is bigger than one person, and it takes a team to make it all happen,” Winters explains. “The dedication of our employees is incredible.”
Grady Martin, PCCA’s director of sales, joined the PCCA team in 1983 as a data entry clerk in TELCOT Center. Since then, his diverse duties within the cooperative have increased in responsibility. During his 23-year career, Martin has provided gin bookkeeping support services at TELMARK, PCCA’s subsidiary company, served as manager of the now extinct CCC certificate department, acted as a contracting manager, and was a buyer on the TELCOT electronic cotton marketing system. In 2004, he assumed his current position.
“Grady knows farm programs better than anyone I’ve ever known,” Winters explains. “He keeps an eye on all of the programs and keeps things going as smoothly as possible at all times.”
Richard Martin (no relation to Grady), originally from Waco, Texas, attended Texas Tech University where he received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting and later became a certified public accountant. Martin audited PCCA’s books for several years before being hired by the cooperative 24 years ago as its controller. He moved to the marketing department in 1991 to become a financial analyst and monitor PCCA’s daily cotton positions.
“I guess I’m half accountant and half analyst, and I really enjoy my job,” Martin explains. “I have to keep my day job at PCCA because even though my jokes are funnier than my first cousin, Steve Martin’s, he gets paid considerably more to tell his,” Martin says with a grin. According to Winters, at any point on any given day, Martin can report to the cooperative its positions and exactly how much money the marketing department has made.
“Richard’s background as a CPA, combined with his knowledge of cotton, gives him a unique perspective,”Winters says. “He is often able to identify and avoid a problem much quicker than someone without his valuable credentials and work experience.”
Phone calls in the middle of the night from half-way around the world are commonplace occurrences for Carlos Garcia, export sales manager. With PCCA’s focus on increased export sales, Garcia is charged with the important task of talking directly to agents and customers worldwide, and few customers operate on Texas time. Approximately one-third of PCCA’s export customers are Spanish speaking, therefore, the fact that he is bilingual has made him an essential member of the marketing team. Garcia grew up on a pecan farm at Van Horn, Texas, but he did not aspire to find a career in agriculture.
In college, he worked part-time at PCCA as a groundskeeper. Although he graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in multi-disciplinary education, he decided to forego teaching to come work full-time at the cooperative in 2000.
“I enjoy working with all of the great people at PCCA and interacting with our customers from around the globe,” Garcia says. “My job is interesting because each day is different; there is never one day exactly like the next.”
Kristi Jordan, sales administrator, echoes Garcia’s statement and adds that, because no two days are the same she constantly is learning something new. Jordan, a self-proclaimed “city girl who is reforming,” also did not expect to find a career in agriculture when she began working at PCCA in 1999. Fresh out of college with a degree in broadcast journalism from Texas Tech University, Jordan began as an administrative assistant in the cooperative’s Field Services Department before moving into a field position. As a field representative, she was one of the liaisons between PCCA, its members, and local cooperative gins. In 2005, she joined the marketing department and now is primarily in charge of executing futures transactions and assisting on-call buyers with price fixations.
“Kristi’s outgoing personality and willingness to learn, as well as her understanding of the business from the producer’s viewpoint, has made her a great addition to our marketing staff,” Winters says.
Chris Ford stripped cotton all over the state of Texas with his family’s Denver City, Texas, based custom harvesting business before he began classing cotton at PCCA in 1987. He later worked in domestic shipping and invoicing before accepting his current position as domestic sales manager in 2000. He and his two employees, Linda Frost and Melanie Beauchamp, are charged with selecting cotton to fill sales requirements and forward sales contracts, scheduling shipments to domestic mills and merchants, and compiling recaps. Ford says his department is basically inventory control for all of PCCA members’ cotton.
“Managing inventory is often a thankless job because it’s so far behind the scenes,” Winters says. “Chris and his employees are the first to look at all of the cotton that comes through PCCA, and they apply just the right cotton to precisely the right sale. What they do is extremely important to the bottom line, and we appreciate their attention to detail,” he adds.
Linda Frost knows how to consider even the smallest of details. Forty years ago, the Lubbock native began working on the classing lines in PCCA’s lab where attention to detail was of the utmost importance. During her career, she has seen the evolution from hand classing cotton to the mechanical HVI testing of today and watched the marketing of cotton progress from farmers going door to door on ‘cotton row’ in downtown Lubbock to offering their cotton for sale to a larger number of buyers on the World Wide Web.
As PCCA’s inventory sales clerk, Frost now creates recaps, orders cottonsamples, schedules delivery to buyers, and chases down any shipping problem that may arise.
“I started working at PCCA even before there were computers in the building,” Frost says with a smile. “Now, almost all of the work I do each day is in front of a computer screen.”
Frost’s counterpart, Melanie Beauchamp, has a similar position with PCCA. Not only does she create recaps, orders samples, schedules delivery to buyers and corrects shipping problems, she also enters export sales so they can be invoiced. A Texas Tech University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in merchandising and a minor in marketing and management, she began her career at PCCA as a marketing assistant three years ago.
“I enjoy working at PCCA because of the wonderful people here,” Beauchamp explains. “The people are so friendly that it feels like a second home.”
Jack Bozeman began working in PCCA’s sample room in 1991. At one time, the department included 10 full-time employees and often hired seasonal help. However, HVI classing data has become the industry standard because it is more dependable and accurate than hand classing, and very few samples are requested by cotton buyers and mills. Bozeman is the last remaining sample room employee at PCCA. When a cotton sample is requested, he prepares it for shipping and occasionally lays out cotton samples for visiting cotton buyers. Bozeman also helps out in PCCA’s maintenance department when needed.
Cathrina Clark, marketing assistant, is new to the marketing department. She came to the cooperative with a great understanding of the denim business as her father worked at American Cotton Growers, the Textile Division of PCCA, for more than 25 years. The Littlefield, Texas, native worked in PCCA’s accounting department for almost a year and recently accepted her current position. Clark is charged with creating PowerPoint presentations for the marketing staff, compiling data for the morning meetings, and assisting other staff members as the need arises.
“Unlike some businesses that are more impersonal, the cotton business still is being built one personal relationship at a time,” Winters said. “Our staff is small, but each person is able to quickly accomplish an amazing amount of work while building and fostering those all-important personal relationships along the way. They do a great job and do their very best to add as much as possible to our members’ bottom line.”