Meet Our Board Members: Brooks Burgum
Brooks Burgum hadn’t planned on going into the family business. Instead, he started his career trading in the pit of the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. “It was back when they used hand signals, so I am one of the few remaining people who can trade using hand signals,” he remarks. “It was a really interesting experience and was my first exposure to the commodities world.” From there, Brooks went to work in project management for Gemstone Development, a real estate company, and he later co-founded Dallas-based LongWater Opportunities, a private equity firm that buys and develops U.S.-based manufacturing companies.
Still, Brooks has always been interested in The Arthur Companies, an Arthur, N.D.-based grain and agronomy business that his family started in 1906. In addition to operating grain elevators, a birdseed company and a wholesale fertilizer company, The Arthur Companies also purchases flax, barley, sunflowers and canola and contracts hi-oleic sunflowers in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.
In 2013, Brooks made the decision to return to North Dakota and join the family business. He worked as a project manager before becoming CEO in 2015.
His favorite part of his job is visiting customers.
“Building those relationships is so important,” he says. “We want our customers’ kids and grandkids to be customers.”
Brooks took over leadership of the company at the end of the ag super cycle, when corn was priced higher than it’s ever been. He’s learned a lot in the aftermath of such prosperity, and his leadership has helped his family’s century-old business continue to grow despite the ag industry’s economic struggles.
“It’s both a scary and exciting time to be in ag. Relative to the market, we’re doing really well,” Brooks notes. “You can still grow. You can still be doing new things. You can go into new products. You can look at new markets – look at everything going on right now with specialty foods. If you get creative, there are opportunities.”
The Arthur Companies found such an opportunity in its partner company Anchor Ingredients, a specialty crops buyer and processor that supplies ingredients to the food and pet food industries. Over the last 3 years, the company has grown from 2 employees to 70.
Brooks also remains involved with LongWater Opportunities, which he helped launch in 2009.
Brooks joined Bell’s board of directors in 2017 and says it’s been an incredible experience spending time with dynamic folks who are doing great things. It’s helped him learn a lot about the marketplace, and his experience in both ag and manufacturing provides valuable insight for the bank. He says he’s also learned a lot from how Bell handles its workplace culture.
“Company culture is huge. It’s all about the people – especially with such low unemployment. Talented people can work anywhere,” Brooks comments. “We spend a lot of time trying to get the culture piece right.”
A graduate of the University of North Dakota, Brooks also holds a master's degree in business administration/finance from Southern Methodist University. He is also an active board member on Burgum Foundation, a private family foundation focused on innovative education programs and entrepreneurship in North Dakota. Brooks lives in Fargo with his wife, Taylor, and their son, Arthur.