HOWARD LAKE, MN It’s the end of an era at Munson Lakes Nutrition, based in Howard Lake. Longtime General Manager John Zander has retired. Before he goes, however, he is showing the ropes to Scott Erdal, the newly-hired general manager.
Zooming into a career
Zander owes his career, in part, to a motorcycle. In March of 1984, he stopped at the Munson Lakes office to inquire about a bike Bob Munson had for sale.
Zander had previously worked for Bob during several spring sales, helping customers stock up on bagged salt and barn lime.
“When I met with Bob, he asked me what I was doing and if I was looking for a job,” Zander recalled. “He had something that had just opened up prior to me coming in.”
Zander ended up with a new job . . . and that motorcycle.
Climbing the ladder of success
Zander spent his first decade with Munson Lakes as a truck driver. Next, came a manufacturing position, bagging and mixing feed for two years.
When the Munson family sold the business in 1996, he helped transition the operation from being privately-owned to a LLC.
In 2002, Zander moved from work as a production supervisor to the company’s assistant manager.
In 2004, he applied for and landed the general manager position, the job he held until his retirement.
Growing the company
Zander’s career highlights include several significant accomplishments.
“I was always looking at ways to be more efficient and grow the company, as well as use new technology to help our producers maximize their production,” he said. “In 2004, I believe we produced around 60,000 tons of feed. Last year, we were near 130,000 tons.”
Zander was also at the helm when new regulations regarding feed mills and food safety were required approximately six years ago. “We were among some of the first mills in the state to be HACCP-certified,” he said.
One of the most visible changes to take place during Zander’s term was an extensive re-model of the business, which included the construction of a new business office.
“The new office was four years in the works, so that felt good when we finally moved in,” he said.
Most significant to Zander are the people with whom he worked. “Fellow employees, customers, and vendors have become good friends,” he said. “Those are things that should not be overlooked.”
Zander said he has a lot to look forward to once he actually stops working.
“My wife, Shari, has already put together quite a honey-do list,” he said.
“We recently became grandparents, and have another one coming in May,” Zander said. “I am looking forward to grandpa-duties!”
Zander also wants to spend some time fishing and working on his golf game.
“Other than that, I want to just sit back and take what comes my way each day,” he said.
Officially, Zander retired just 20 days short of working for Munson Lakes for 36 years.
Stepping into some big boots
Scott Erdal is the man stepping into Munson Lakes’ general manager position.
Erdal said he heard about the job opening from an industry connection. He knew Munson Lakes well from work trading feed commodities earlier in his career.
“Munson Lakes is known as a reputable and growing feed company, with a solid foundation to build upon,” he said. “After a quick conversation with my family, I decided to pursue the opportunity, and begin the selection process,” he said.
Erdal’s first day on the job was Jan. 20.
Erdal said he first connected with Zander around the winter holidays to discuss plans for a successful changeover.
“Everything has gone really well with the transition to this point,” he said. “John and the rest of the team have done a great job of bringing me up to speed quickly, and introducing me to the operation.”
Erdal said he has learned a tremendous amount so far, and looks forward to picking up even more.
Plans for continued prosperity
Erdal’s short-term goals for Munson Lakes Nutrition include getting to know his employees and customers, as well as how the business’s facilities operate.
His long-term goals for Munson Lakes sound familiar. “I want to bring steady growth and performance to the operation while navigating a continuously changing ag industry,” he said. “The use of technology via automation, and our ability to adapt to our customers’ needs will be key for the success of Munson Lakes Nutrition.”