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 Kiffmeyer3

Dean "JR" Kiffmeyer

EVP & General Manager
Dean is a member of our Leadership Team and was promoted to EVP & General Manager 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).

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.
Chris Babich

Chris Babich

VP, Finance
Chris has a true passion for the manufacturing industry, having spent his entire life and career in it.

Chris joined Central McGowan in 2019 to use his broad base of internal operations experience to help guide our company’s expansion and growth, while driving excellence and discipline in our financial, IT and talent management areas.

Prior to joining our company, Chris was Special Project Manager at DeZURIK. Before that, he held roles of financial analyst, accountant, cost reporting analyst, accounts payable specialist, and accounting/business intern at DeZURIK, Graco, and United States Steel.

He has a Masters in Business Administration from SCSU/Herberger Business School and a Bachelor of Arts in Accounting from Concordia College, Moorhead MN.

Bob Crew

VP & GM, CO2 Solutions
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. Most recently Bob was named VP & GM of the company's CO2 Solutions business.

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).
Pete Rogers

Pete Rogers

VP & GM, Automation
Pete joined us in 2019, and came to us from Acieta—another leading automation technology integrator with over 4,500 installed FANUC robots used for a variety of manufacturing applications.

Pete possesses a strong mix of technical and leadership skills. Most recently, he was VP of Operations responsible for overseeing Acieta Service, Integration, Controls, Fabrication, Machining and Assembly Groups. Before that, he held positions of Integration Manager, Production Manager, Welding Segment Manager, Project Manager and Robotic Systems Engineer.

He has an Associate of Arts & Sciences (A.A.S.) degree from Central Lakes College in Robotics/Automated Systems and is FANUC MASTER Certified.

For the past nearly 5 years, Pete’s been a Generation Next Taskforce Volunteer for the Association for Advancing Automation (A3)—a healthy, growing organization created to maintain continuity and momentum in A3 member organizations as leaders begin to retire.
Al Gerscheid

Al Germscheid

HR Manager
Al joined us in 2019 to use his nearly 35 years in HR to help deepen our people/talent management and development strategy/capabilities. His skill set includes change management, acquisition management, talent development/training, recruitment, benefits and safety administration, and youth internship/machinist apprenticeship program implementation.

Prior to coming to Central McGowan, Al was HR Director at LISI Medical Remmele in Minneapolis, MN, having advanced to that position since joining the company in 1994 and through four acquisitions.  Before that he was HR Generalist/Manager for the Aerospace Division of CINCH Military/Aerospace in Minneapolis.

Al has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Mankato State University, and held certifications in PHR through SHRM since 1992. He serves as an Advisory Board Member for various Machine Tool Programs in MN, and is an active supporter of the Big Lake Middle School Industrial Tech Program and the Big Lake High School Robotics Team.