A Celebration Of Facilities

 

Welcome to the first annual CropLife® Facilities Report! We hope you find this special section on our Web site an eye-opening, as well as informative, look at some the ag retail industry’s newest and most innovative locations.

In this report:

But first, let’s consider some perspective on this topic. There’s something undeniably special about the new. Who hasn’t stepped into a new car, closed their eyes and taken a deep breath to draw in that “new car smell.” Or gingerly brushed a hand across the face of a brand new tablet or smartphone.

For your average ag retailer, the closest equivalent to these “brushes with newness” tend to come from having brand new facilities. I got to see this for myself first-hand on a recent visit to central Louisiana. There, situated between the cities of Alexandria and Boyce is a Crop Production Services (CPS) outlet which was constructed and opened approximately four years ago.

“We originally had a much older facility we were running our business out of, and it was really in need of an upgrade,” says Robbie Scarborough Sr., marketing manager, South for CPS Boyce. “Now, with our new facility, we really have something extra special to show our customers and community neighbors.”

Of course, there are other reasons why ag retailers build new facilities. For many operations, new construction can be an effort to improve their business while serving their grower-customers better. “Logistically, it was very difficult to keep every product that our customers wanted on hand at all times,” said Troy Pearl, co-owner and special projects manager for J.B. Pearl Sales & Service Inc., St. Marys, KS, in a recent CropLife article on the company’s new fertilizer plant. “As our trucks and machines kept getting bigger, loading them in a timely fashion became a real challenge.”

A similar tale was told by Steve Martin, general manager for CPS’ Mid-South Division in Missouri. “I was constantly hearing griping from folks because our retail plants couldn’t get fertilizer on time, especially with the application season getting more compressed each year,” said Martin in a 2010 interview with CropLife focusing on the company’s new mega fertilizer hub. “Also, we needed to find a way to get product to our retail locations while not at the mercy of the river stages.”

And The Survey Says . . .

Besides these stories from the ag retailers themselves, we also heard from numerous construction companies and plant suppliers over the past few years describing just how strong the appetite for new facilities was, and continued to be. “We have never been this busy in terms of new construction and inquiries from potential customers,” said Steven Anderson, national accounts manager, sales & marketing for Stueve Construction Co., Algona, IA, at a 2010 winter trade show.

He said virtually the same thing at a 2011 summer trade.

And both winter and summer trade shows in 2012 and 2013.

Another source of information on this uptick in new facility building was our magazine’s annual CropLife 100 survey. For the past 30 years, CropLife has sent out a survey each summer/fall to the nation’s top ag retail organizations. In addition to collecting volumes of data on company sales, crop input/services percentages and self-propelled sprayer manufacturer preferences, we have typically asked a few questions about industry consolidation. Inevitably, many of these lead to information on new plant construction, as many acquired retailers have their operations condensed from five outlets into one.

Of course, when some observers to the ag retail marketplace see a trend experience substantial growth year-after-year, they inevitably begin to think this boom cycle will ultimately turn bust. Since the beginning of the 2010s, we’ve heard several industry friends (and a few coworkers) warn that the ag retail construction bubble “would soon burst.”

With many dire predictions that 2014 would be “the year” agriculture experienced a market downturn from various industry analysts and trend watchers, we decided to confront the ag retail facility question head on. So in our 2013 CropLife 100 retailer survey, we asked a simple question: Which choice best summaries your overall expenditure plans for plant construction and renovation in 2014 compared to 2013? In our minds, this should have given a strong indication of whether or not the top ag retailers were inclined to keep adding new plants to the nation’s landscape or felt the need to “hold back some” given agricultural market uncertainty.

When the results were tallied, ag retailers might as well have written three simple words on their CropLife 100 forms to this question: “Full steam ahead!” Somewhat surprisingly, 81% of the CropLife 100 retailers will spend as much or more money on new construction than they did during 2013. Only 19% were planning to spend less money than in previous years.

The Genesis Of A Special Report

Armed with these figures, we at CropLife decided that the time was right to feature several of these showplace facilities in the pages of our magazine and on our Website. So in December 2013, we began drawing up the plans for publishing a special insert to CropLife which would highlight some of the best new ag retail outlets the industry has to offer.

But in addition to just telling the stories behind these construction projects, we wanted to do more. What about providing detailed specifications on each of these innovative facilities? Information on the site plans? And we wanted lots and lots of pictures from these outlets, showing the key features in some detail (with some in print and many more available on in Retail Facilities section on CropLife.com).

The first product offering resulting from all these plans is what you now hold in your hands, dear reader: The first annual CropLife Retail Facilities Report. Within the 20 pages in the print report, you will find information on seven ag retail outlets that have been deemed the pinnacle of design, form and function by the construction companies and product suppliers that helped build them. Along with short stories on what each plant owner/company was hoping to accomplish and how these visions became reality, you will find a special Specs-At-Glance section and comments from the suppliers on how they helped bring forth these showplace facilities. There’s also information on how to contact these suppliers. In addition, by visiting www.croplife.com you will see even more photographs and plant details.

We hope you enjoy this special insert to CropLife magazine. A special “thank you” goes out to all the ag retail operations and industry suppliers that were willing to share not only their time, but intimate plant details with us to make this report possible. Without your help and assistance, turning our vision into a real-life project would not have happened.

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