Ten years ago, Newell native Brian Sorbe was studying electronic engineering in the Air Force, and was planning to use that education to embark on a career in the world of technology.
Today, Sorbe is behind the cockpit of a rising agriculture company which recently acquired rights to distribute one of the world's leading modular feed processor (MFP) and feed batching systems to dealers across the world.
Sorbe, 28, is the Chief Executive Officer of Alliance Controls, Inc., which specializes in custom control systems for both agriculture and industrial batching / material handling applications.
Located in Sherburn, Minn., Alliance Controls purchased rights to the MFP product line from industry giant Weigh-Tronix in December, and also obtained rights to the Weigh-Tronix CSI-150, one of the leading feed-batching "on-farm" feed processing applications in North America.
The Newell native said his job as the head of a new company is time-consuming, but said he is excited about being able to start up a new company in the agriculture field.
"All of us here at the company have one common goal in focus here, and that is to be successful," Sorbe said. "It is always an uphill battle when you are a startup, but we keep our overhead very low so we may compete on prices with our competitors, and I've spent many days and nights on the road, meeting with our distributors and customers trying to promote our business.
"It's a lot of work, but it's definitely been worth it."
Unmarried, Sorbe has a three-year old daughter, Sidney, and has a brother, Trent, who lives in Sioux City. His mother, Chris Sorbe, lives in rural Newell, while his father, Jim Sorbe, lives in Albert City.
Sorbe, who grew up within the Newell city limits, graduated from Newell-Fonda in May of 1991, and then entered the Air Force, where he received a degree in electronic engineering.
After taking classes at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo for two years, Sorbe then took a full-time job at Napa in Storm Lake, and then moved to Jackson, Minn., in the winter of 1996 to take a job with Ag-Chem Equipment Company, Inc. as a product specialist.
The job at Ag-Chem helped Sorbe learn the ins and outs of the agriculture industry, and after two years, he accepted a position with Easy Systems, Inc. of Welcome, Minn., which started him on the road to being the head of Alliance Controls.
The birth of Alliance Controls came from the Chapter 11 reorganization of Easy Systems, which had run the business side of the Weigh-Tronix enterprise for four years after Weigh-Tronix decided to concentrate on scales rather than the direct sales and service of its Modular Feed Processor system in 1997.
The exclusive sales agreement between ESI and Weigh-Tronix was cancelled by Weigh-Tronix after reorgan-ization hit ESI in early 2001, which took Easy Systems out of the automation business.
Sorbe, a regional sales representative at ESI at the time, and John Guerdet saw an opportunity to start a new company to fill the void left by Easy Systems' reorganization, and the two founded Alliance Controls in April of 2001.
A company which has seven full-time employees with prior experience at either ESI or Weigh-Tronix, Sorbe said that talent and experience, combined with the vertical nature of the market and the high quality of the Weigh-Tronix line, has allowed his company to become successful in a short amount of time.
"There are not a lot of competitors in our market, but the market is very vertical and as a result the few of us that there are, are very competitive," Sorbe said. "The advantage that we have is that we are the new kids on the block and there seems to be a push for that right now. This allows us to sit back and take a good look at what our competitors are doing and where we can fill gaps to provide a better product."
"Weigh-Tronix is also a great company to be affiliated with," Sorbe continued. "They are one of the biggest scale companies in the world, and their products are top of the line. Their endorsement means a lot to our marketability."
Alliance Controls has numerous dealers around the United States, including Norm's Livestock in Storm Lake, and has also expanded onto the international market, with dealers in countries in South America, Canada, Central America, the former Soviet Union and Southeast Asia.
While the company intends to concentrate primarily on the North American market, Sorbe said the business would try to increase its international presence in 2002, as its new control systems will work in any industry which needs to weigh large objects automatically.
Sorbe said he feels his time in Newell prepared him for his career in the agriculture field, and said his childhood experiences in his hometown has helped him become the chief pilot behind the rapid take-off of Alliance Controls.
"Now that I am older I can look back and confidently say that I went to a great school on the scale of small schools," Sorbe said. "I think that I am lucky to have made some of the decisions that I made in the last few years, and I would say that my upbringing certainly played the most important role in that. Newell was a great town to grow up in and taught me a lot of the values that I use everyday here in the business world."