Meet the new CEO Rick LeBlanc
“This clever Swedish technology –
it is time to go global.”
When he was 16 he said to his father: I want a canoe! Then build one, his father replied. Six boats, and 40 years later, he has put his builder hands to another project about wood. “This boat is ready”, says Rick LeBlanc, the new CEO of Chemrec, “We are just going to put a sail on it and give it wind”. With a mature and scaleable technology that can resurrect a challenged industry and make a difference to global warming, LeBlanc is confidently sharing his visions for Chemrec for the coming years. “This clever Swedish technology – it is time to go global.”
– In four or five years I see a handful of biorefineries in operation in Europe and North America, says LeBlanc. Within ten years the organization will be global with the next generation of biorefineries in function with an even broader variety of fuels, biochemicals or bioenergy.
LeBlanc knows that Chemrec is ready for this expansion. When taking over as CEO in December of 2008 he found a technology more mature than most other second generation biofuels in the world.
– In the field of future biofuels many companies are still working on lab ideas, says LeBlanc. We have a demonstration plant up and running, we have passed the technology risk with proven availability and results.
Experience with early stage business start-ups
It is not the first time for this energetic and experienced Canadian to make commercial success of early stage businesses. In the 80’s and 90’s he ran his own start-up service business and founded emerging tech companies that he helped to expand and blossom.
– Chemrec has come a long way technically and scientifically, LeBlanc adds. Now we will make a commercial success of this clever Swedish technology.
Switching to Chemrec from Siemens, where he made an international career over the past 25 years, is not as big a change as it may seem, he claims. The interest in alternative energies and gasification systems started years ago while LeBlanc was running a Siemens Building Automation division. The challenge for this group was to find and implement technology that would operate buildings in the most energy efficient way. Gasification of waste was one. Two years ago LeBlanc received a recognized certification from the U.S. Green Building Council called LEED, Leadership in Environmental Energy Design.
– It is a very exciting time for the world to really embrace this renewable technology, says LeBlanc. I am glad to be part of this wave.
Subsidiaries and alliances over the world
LeBlanc is stationed at the Chemrec US office in Deerfield, Illinois a Chicago suburb and spends a week at the head quarters in Sweden each month.
– The US office is a subsidiary that is concentrating on Chemrec’s expansion in North America. Over time, we may have offices in other countries where there is a demand for Chemrec technology.
The parent company is in Sweden
LeBlanc emphasized the fact that Sweden is the home of the intellectual property of Chemrec, the parent company. The Research & Development and Engineering will stay in Sweden. The subsidiaries will have their own Advisory Councils as business collaborators of that country. The task to set up strategic alliances is a crucial part of the work.
– In each country we need a set of scientific, technical and commercial alliances, made up of research universities, government agency’s specialists and fuel producers. The BioDME project is a good example of that kind of alliance where EU, Volvo and Preem are partners.
Motivated people create success
What an exciting task to put the sail on an upcoming company in a world in craving need of its’ mature technology. LeBlanc’s background includes successful stories of making high-tech companies profitable and building world-class management teams. How do you do it?
– Big or small, every company success is about the people, says this strong bodied and dedicated man of 57, looking me into the eyes with a smile that convinces me that he certainly sees the person and will bring out the best in each. Motivation, he continues, is the key. Big bureaucratic companies can block creativity, but there must be enough structure for a person to be clear on how they will be measured. Loose and tight, in the right balance. This is my management philosophy.
LeBlanc holds an MBA from NorthwesternUniversity and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from University of Toronto.
Rick and his wife have a big project going – to build a net-zero-energy home by a lake in North Carolina, a spot carefully chosen for the best conditions for alternative energy sources. While preserving the world for future generations Rick can paddle the boats he builds once he is retired. And his car by then will of course run on advanced biofuels from the forest.
Text: Elisabeth Kempemo, Logos Kommunikation