Centerra Co-op Chief Executive Officer Jean Bratton might not live in Ashtabula County, but as the leader of a major player in agribusiness in northeast Ohio she said the county and its farmers are always on her mind.
Bratton, a Wellington resident, graduated in 1985 from Kenyon College with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Later she went on to get her MBA from Boston University-Brussels, where she graduated in 2001.
Her previous professional experience includes Lansing Trade Group (where she worked as director of business development); chief financial officer of the Town and Country Co-op; Newell – Rubbermaid director of treasury and acquisition integration; and The Timken Company where she was an economist and market researcher.
“I started out as an economist at a bearing and steel company,” Bratton said. “I was really using my economics degree on industry- specific things.”
Eventually, she began doing financial analysis of special projects.
“That was my entry into doing financial work,” Bratton said. “I went from economics to financial, which ultimately led to a position as chief financial officer.”
Bratton said she enjoyed and excelled at the financial end of business, which came as a surprise because she had “absolutely zero finance classes.”
“Everything I have learned has been on the job and mostly through doing projects and trying to figure out what makes a company successful and what could make it even more successful,” Bratton said.
Bratton left Centerra’s predecessor Town and Country Co-op and went to work for two different grain companies before returning to the newly renamed Centerra as the chief operations officer and was ultimately named CEO.
“Having that grain experience I think has really helped me in my career,” Bratton said.
The businesses Bratton has worked in have all been largely male-dominated, and she said she has encountered some instances where people are surprised when they learn that she is a woman and the head of a company.
What Bratton said she sees more of in the business than gender differences is generational differences.
“We have very distinct generations in this business,” she said. “This next generation is looking for a lot more cooperative and collaborative thinking and empowerment. I think women are well-suited for handling that and talking through those issues.”
Bratton said one thing people might not know about Centerra is that the co-op is not solely engaged in grain purchase and storage. Quite a bit of the co-op’s revenue comes from providing services to farmers.
Farmers might not have a large enough farm to make an investment in their own fertilizing equipment, for example, and Bratton said Centerra offers such services and equipment.
“Every farmer relies on us for different aspects of service,” she said.
Another thing people might not know is that almost half of Centerra’s business comes from people who aren’t farmers, Bratton said.
The co-op has a building materials division located in Jefferson, which provides supplies for do-it-yourself projects as well as professional contractors.
Centerra Co-op has a presence in northeast Ohio and portions of western Pennsylvania in some counties that border Ohio.
For more information on the co-op or its services visit www.centerracoop.com