Brandt today welcomed two entrepreneurs to its board of directors. Kelley Earnhardt Miller, one of the most prominent women in NASCAR and co-owner of JR Motorsports, will bring additional drive, diversity and competitiveness to the company. Likewise, Chris Harbourt, Ph.D., brings a deep background in agriculture with both academic and start-up experience from his position as an assistant professor at the University of Illinois and his roles founding and running ag companies.
“We just added two rock stars to Team Brandt,” said Rick Brandt, President and CEO of Brandt. “Kelley is an amazing businesswoman and leader; Chris is a unique marriage of academia and real world experience. Together, they are both entrepreneurs who know how to identify opportunities, build teams and run companies.”
Joining eight other directors and three consultants, Earnhardt Miller and Harbourt were elected for one year terms by the Brandt shareholders.
Daughter of seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, Earnhardt Miller is the backbone of JR Motorsports, overseeing the company’s race teams and its management team, as well as all business ventures for her brother, Dale Earnhardt Jr. After she joined JR Motorsports in 2001 as general manager, the company has flourished, winning seven team championships at the highest levels of American stock car racing.
“I am excited to join the Brandt board,” Earnhardt Miller said. “Like JR Motorsports, BRANDT is a family-owned company with a distinctive set of values and a clear vision for the future. I look forward to bringing my experience to the BRANDT board and the company overall.”
Harbourt has staked out a position as a visionary in global Ag. With a Ph.D. in Ag Engineering from the University of Illinois, Harbourt has become a serial Ag entrepreneur, identifying opportunities and building companies to help farmers grow more abundant and more sustainable crops. In 2014, he co-founded Agrible, Inc., which grew into one of Ag’s most innovative digital platforms before it was sold for $63MM in 2018. He is currently the CEO of AirScout, Inc., the managing partner of Hatch Ag Group, LLC and an assistant professor with the University of Illinois.
“Brandt is a unique company with unique opportunities,” Harbourt explained. “There is no other company of Brandt’s size that has such a deep set of capabilities from wholesale purchasing to input manufacturing to retail distribution. From the Board level, what intrigues me is the challenge to bring these competencies together to build an even more innovative Ag leader.”
“We are fortunate to bring Kelley and Chris into the Brandt family,” said Brandt. “From the employee level to the Board level, our goal is to attract and retain the best and the brightest as we continue to build a different kind of company in the Ag space. We want people who think different, who aren’t afraid to challenge ‘the way we’ve always done things.’
“I don’t think anyone’s ever accused either of these leaders of a failure to imagine,” explained Brandt.
In addition to her duties at JR Motorsports, Earnhardt Miller serves on the board of The Dale Jr Foundation, which has raised over $8.1 MM for various charities. She’s also the chairman of the board of Blueharbor Bank, a trustee for Iredell Memorial Hospital and a board member for Children’s Hope Alliance. She and her husband L.W. Miller live in North Carolina; she has three kids.
In all of his professional ventures, Harbourt fosters the marriage of technology and agriculture. His latest venture, Hatch Ag Group, is a consulting business designed to help commercialize Ag technology out of the University of Illinois. Even his teaching load has a practical bent: He teaches classes in crop science, entrepreneurship, and startups in the Department of Crop Science, Ag & Bio Engineering Department, and the Technology Entrepreneurship Center. Harbourt is a resident of St. Joseph, IL. He and his wife Susan have two sons.