Plains Cotton Cooperative Association: Innovation from Field to Fashion

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Commentator
Summer 2008
Southern Comfort
Quality Service is the First Priority at PCCA's South Texas Office
Cris Gwinn, South Texas Division Manager
Cris Gwinn, South Texas Division Manager

Four talented and committed individuals act as personal liaisons between Plains Cotton Cooperative Association (PCCA), gin personnel, and more than five thousand South Texas members and cotton producers. Serving such a large number of people, while keeping the focus on quality service, may seem like an overwhelming task.

“Quality service is our first priority as we constantly try to find new ways to improve how we do business,” says Cris Gwinn, South Texas Division manager. “Whether it’s embracing the newest technology and implementing new programs, or striving to find new ways to do our old tasks better, our staff always is ready to assist our South Texas members and gins.”

The South Texas Division, with offices in Corpus Christi and Taylor, Texas, provides an array of services to PCCA members and gins. The staff offers direct support for all gin bookkeeping needs and helps troubleshoot scale ticket problems during ginning season. In addition, the division is responsible for supporting gin services and assisting with government farm programs. The office staff also provides support for gin personnel in the marketing and invoicing of members’ cotton and sponsors gin training workshops in Corpus Christi and Taylor each year.

Working closely with the Grower Services department at PCCA headquarters in Lubbock, Texas, the staff processes paperwork for PCCA members including pool contracts, account authorizations, loan paperwork, mill option agreements and crop contracts. Each time information changes are made, PCCA’s computer system must be updated and the corresponding paperwork filed in a long line of filing cabinets holding scores of legal documents. It is crucial that all paperwork is correct since many of the documents dictate check amounts and payees.

Cameron Charles, Field Represenative
Cameron Charles, Field Represenative

Due to the distance from PCCA’s headquarters, the South Texas Division helps PCCA’s Network department by installing, removing, providing technical support and trouble-shooting computer equipment in the area’s gin offices.

“The staff members in South Texas really have to be a ‘jack of all trades’ because of the variety of work that has to be done,” Dean Church, PCCA’s vice president of Grower Service says. “Interaction with our producers is obviously a huge part of the services they provide.”

Gwinn does not take the importance of quality service lightly. He has ample experience working in all aspects of the cotton industry and believes good customer service is the key to any successful business. Service is especially important in the case of cooperatives as the business’ customers also are its owners.

Gwinn, a Matador, Texas, native, received a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics at Texas Tech University before working as a research assistant at the Texas Agricultural Extension Service. He then became familiar with the cooperative way of doing business as the office manager at Midland Farmers Cooperative in Midland, Texas. In 1995, Gwinn was hired as a field representative at PCCA’s headquarters office.

In the mid-nineties, Gwinn was transferred to PCCA’s Taylor, Texas, office to become the Central Texas manager. When the leading post in PCCA’s South Texas Division became open in 2006, Gwinn was promoted to his current position as South Texas Division Manager and moved to the office in Corpus Christi.

Service is especially important in the case of cooperatives as the business' customers also are its owners. Dean Church

“Cris took on a huge challenge by moving to our Taylor office where we basically had no market share,” Church explains. “From that, he built a great customer base, handling over 130,000 bales per year. His proven success made it an easy decision to promote him to the South Texas Division manager position.”

Although Gwinn enjoys the time he spends visiting area gins and producers, his job requires that he spend a large amount of time in the office. Because the South Texas territory is very large, spanning more than 400 miles, Field Representative Cameron Charles finds himself on the road most of the time visiting growers and gins and attending key industry meetings.

Charles was quick to find his way around despite the fact that he has been in the Corpus Christi area less than two years. He left his hometown of Bovina, Texas, to obtain a degree in Finance at Texas Tech University. His first job upon graduation was with PCCA’s South Texas Division where he strives to keep PCCA members and gins informed about their cooperative, its programs, and new developments in the cotton industry. His duties as a field representative also include assisting with gin bookkeeping, producer calls and evaluating computer equipment problems.

“Cameron’s ability to learn our system quickly, coupled with his computer knowledge, has allowed our office to provide first-rate customer service,” Gwinn says.

Linda White, Office Manager, Corpus Christi
Linda White, Office Manager, Corpus Christi

The focus on customer service continued with the addition of Linda White, the office manager at PCCA’s Corpus Christi office. She usually is the first smiling face people see when they enter the building. White has been a long- time South Texas resident, and her previous experience in business management helped her hit the ground running after accepting a position at PCCA.

With more than a year and a half of experience at PCCA, White’s duties include contract management, data entry, obtaining and entering eligibility information, assisting gin clerks with cotton marketing, and helping to plan the annual South Texas Agent School.

“Linda has been a great asset for our office,” Gwinn explains. “Her creativity and communication skills have allowed us to deliver PCCA’s message in a more clear and artistic manner.”

The South Texas Division also encompasses Central Texas where Dena Alderman serves as an office manager in Taylor. Originally from San Angelo, Texas, she has extensive experience in the cotton industry.

Dena Alderman, Office Manager, Taylor
Dena Alderman, Office Manager, Taylor

Alderman worked for Hutto Cooperative Gin Company as an office manager and later a co-manager for a combined total of 12 years before coming to work for PCCA in 2005. Alderman handles all aspects of cotton marketing and invoicing for the gins in her area and works closely with the Corpus Christi office.

“When Dena began working at Taylor, it allowed my transition from the Central Texas office to PCCA’s South Texas office to go better than I ever could’ve imagined,” Gwinn says. “Her previous experience with a cooperative gin gives her a greater understanding of our customer base.”

Whether in the Corpus Christi or the Taylor offices, the division’s overall commitment to quality service has not gone unnoticed to the South and Central Texas producers and gins that come into contact with the PCCA employees on a daily basis.

“The South Texas office staff is very pleasant to work with and they are always willing to help get the answers to my questions,” says Pam Chesnutt, office manager at Bayside-Richardson Cooperative Gin in Woodsboro, Texas. “I’ve really enjoyed working with the PCCA staff for the last 13 years. They’ve made my job much easier.”

Although the division provides Field Services, Grower Services, and computer support, ultimately, the South Texas Division is important to the overall success of PCCA due to the area’s early harvest which makes it possible for the cooperative’s sales staff to market cotton almost year-round.

“In addition to all of their duties, Cris and his staff always are ‘quick out of the blocks’ to make sure the flow of cotton is timely for our sales staff to start marketing.” Church says. “He has built a great team, and the four of them have poured their heart and soul into serving our producers and gins in that area.”

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