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Running the Mill

Great-granddaughter blazes trail as Knappen Milling’s CEO

Brian Powers



Charles (Charlie) Brown Knappen opened his milling company in Augusta more than 90 years ago, women had had the right to vote for only about a decade. Now a woman who carries his name is sitting in the company’s top seat, keeping Charlie’s idea alive — her way. It took a while for Emily Likens, Charlie’s great-granddaughter, to return home. A Kalamazoo native, she moved out West in the mid1990s, attending the University of Arizona in Tucson before leaving a year later for Colorado, where she lived, got married, had four boys and became a midwife. She estimates she helped deliver about

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50 babies a year. Now, still involved part-time in midwifery, she’s delivering something else too: a new way of doing business. “Women in general are more relational in how they interact with others,” says Likens from her corner office, from which towering grain elevators are framed in a large window behind her. She has been CEO of Knappen Milling since 2018. “I am trying to create a culture of openness, where relations are nurtured from bottom to top and top to bottom,” she says. Not long ago, one of Likens’ 43 employees came to her with a problem. Instead of negotiating through a human resources