Gene JensenGene Jensen worked his way through production jobs and potato protectionism to become plant manufacturing manager for the new Frito-Lay Inc. facility at Jonesboro.
The 38-year-old Jensen started working for Frito-Lay in Charlotte, N.C., when he was still in college., moving through various production jobs. That led to another production job at a start-up plant in Perry, Ga.
Later, he spent a few years in the purchasing group at Frito-Lay headquarters, then was put in charge of potato procurement for Canada and the northern United States.
Potato procurement might not sound like a crucial job, but consider that this is Frito-Lay - the biggest producer of potato chips in the world.
Jensen says he faced one of the biggest challenges of his career while serving in that role. At first, none of the Canadian provinces would allow potatoes to be imported from the United States, or from any of the other provinces, for that matter, though all of the provinces happily exported their potatoes to the United States.
After Jensen worked with farmers and the Canadian marketing board, he was able to effect changes in Canadian law that broke the lock on potato trade.
As an encore, Jensen recently helped lead the launch of Wow! chips, the most successful new product in Frito-Lay's history. The Jonesboro plant, where Jensen has been for two years, manufactures the Wow! chips in several product lines.
Jensen is a member of the Jonesboro University Rotary Club and a regular donor of blood to the American Red Cross.
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