Central McGowan



Our leaders come from varied backgrounds but share a common goal: to help Central McGowan and our team members thrive. Learn a bit about each of them below.


Joe Francis

Joe’s passion for Central McGowan is unmatched. His direction is clear and his excitement is contagious.

Joe knew at a young age that Central McGowan would become his home. The company was founded in 1954 by his Grandfather, Leo Henkemeyer, making Joe the 3rd generation owner.

Beginning his career in 2005, Joe was hired on doing work including assisting in our fill plant, inside sales and customer service. After the sudden and unfortunate passing of his father and CEO/CFO in 2011, Joe’s attention focused on the financial side of things accepting the position of Vice President and CFO.

Joe has worked in coordination with our management team to lead our company through succession planning and a new leadership structure/company re-organization.

Joe is currently President & CEO, and majority owner of Central McGowan along with his mother Cynthia Francis. Maintaining an aggressive growth approach and family ownership with employee focus are some of his top priorities.

Joe is a 2007 graduate of St. Cloud Technical High School and a 2012 graduate of St. Cloud State University, earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Management with minors in Finance and Real Estate. He is actively involved in our industry and community being members of GAWDA (Gases and Welding Distributors association), GSDC (Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation), YPO (Young Presidents Organization) and a strong supporter of Boys & Girls Club, CentraCare Health Foundation and the Animal Humane Societies.

Dean "JR" Kiffmeyer

Executive VP
Dean is a member of our Leadership Team and was promoted to Executive VP in 2019. Dean joined us in 1996, and has extensive experience in and enthusiasm for the business and industries we serve. Dean is a local resident of Central Minnesota and a graduate of St. Cloud Technical High School. Dean served in the Army and was stationed at Fort Carson, CO, working with M1A1 tanks.

Dean has held just about every position at Central McGowan which makes him an integral part of Central McGowan and our leadership team. Originally hired as a route sales driver, he's held positions as diverse as Bev/Carb sales and installation to working in shipping and receiving.

His knowledge of the industry and our company has significantly added to our growth and success. Dean applies his extensive experience, eye and energy for innovation, and honest, open management style to every project, challenge and opportunity.

He is an active board member of CMMA (Central Minnesota Manufacturers Association) and serves on several industry advisory councils. He regularly attends and is an active member in AIWD (Association of Independent Welding Distributors), GAWDA (Gas and Welding Distributors Association), AWS (American Welding Society), and RIA (Robotic Industries Association).

Bob Crew

VP, Distribution Operations
Bob was hired in 2016 with 25 years of experience in the welding and gas industry as Director of Business Development.

With his background, he quickly showed his value and became an influential member of our Executive Leadership team as our VP of Business Operations. Bob not only has industry experience but has a diverse set of skills including Accounting & Finance ,Sales, and Division Management which aid in the strategic growth and direction of Central McGowan. Bob has been instrumental in successfully coordinating acquisitions and new branch locations.

Born and raised in Iowa, Bob is a graduate of Spencer High School and a 1985 Graduate of Spencer School of Business. He also believes in continuing education and has completed various management and leadership programs.

Bob regularly attends and is a member of GAWDA (Gas and Welding Distributors Association) and AWS (American Welding Society).

Julie Berling

VP, Sales & Marketing
Julie has spent nearly 30 years marketing and advocating for agriculture and important human issues, working as a strategist, marketing researcher, PR specialist, blogger, copywriter, journalist, and thought leader.

She joined us in 2018, and shortly thereafter became part of our leadership team and charged with taking our sales & marketing strategy to the next level.

Her broad marketing and communications experience includes: brand development & management, crisis communications management, marketing research, pitching new products/services to some of the world's largest food retailers, and managing regional and national trade show strategies and events.

She has a BA in English from the University of St. Thomas (with concentrations in Communications and Education), and is trained in Six Sigma (Green Belt Level), Lean Management, Continuous Improvement, Coaching for Excellence, and Situational Leadership. She's an active member of several industry and professional associations, an avid speaker and presenter.

Sony Shay

Finance Director
Sony’s motivation and personal drive is undeniable. She has a diverse background and a strong work ethic.

Sony was a member of the Army Reserves. While serving in the Reserves, she utilized the education benefits and earned a B.S. in Accounting in 2011.

Once settled in her career, the benefits of becoming a CPA became apparent. In early 2017 Sony earned CPA credentials and graduated with a MBA at the end of 2017.

Joining us in 2014 as a controller, she quickly earned a leadership role as our Finance Director in 2017. As a member of the leadership team she brings financial knowledge to guide the overall direction of our company.

Sony is a member of the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants as well as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.