Business administration students at Penn State DuBois have put their classroom lessons to real-world use by conducting feasibility studies and preparing marketing plans for a local company. The project for the BA 321 Contemporary Skills for Business Professionals class asked students to work with management at Pennsylvania Grain Processing (PGP) in Clearfield, a producer and wholesaler of grains, as well as a producer of ethanol.
Students were challenged with three different facets of a project for PGP. They were tasked with determining whether or not the local market would make the sale E85 ethanol profitable; determining the best location for an E85 ethanol pump station; and developing a marketing plan for the E85, as well as PGP as a whole. The class was broken into three groups, each of which completed one task in the overall project.
"We find a problem a business has and we offer a solution," said Penn State DuBois Senior Instructor of Business Administration Laurie Breakey, noting the benefits to both students and PGP. "The goal is to learn about the businesses in our area, give the students real-world experience and help the businesses with their needs."
The students related their findings to PGP representatives during a formal presentation on campus. They determined that the current market would not likely support an E85 station, but offered ways to make it more appealing, like combining the station with a convenience store.
"Our recommendation is going to be to not put a pump here for a couple of years, at least. After that, the demand could grow," explained student Matt Santaniello of Brockway.
If a station were to be constructed in the area, another group of students determined the best possible location for it would be a tract of land that is for sale near the Clearfield exit 121, off of Interstate 80. They decided upon this property due to its close proximity to a major highway, high visibility, and availability for purchase at a fair market price.
The third group assembled an overall marketing plan for PGP that would help to increase their presence in the community, whether or not they were to sell E85 locally.
"We looked into many different forms of marketing, including radio ads, social media, sponsorships and using business events through the chamber of commerce," said student Courtney Mullins. She explained that their goal was to help project a positive image of PGP in the community, regardless of the sale of E85, and to highlight the things the company does to support Clearfield and surrounding communities, such as their support of charitable organizations and community events. The students also suggested welcoming the public to learn more about their operation by holding an open house and tours at their facility.
Representatives from PGP who attended the presentation, such as the company's bulk freight coordinator, Gary Lyons, were impressed with the students' work. Lyons said, "I think they did an excellent job. It definitely helps now that we're thinking about expanding into retail and doing more than just wholesale. The marketing aspect and reaching out to the community is good. So many people in the area have no idea what we do or how we contribute to the local economy."
PGP's Clearfield plant processes 125,000 bushels of corn to produce 360,000 gallons of ethanol each day.