For 50 years now, one of the fixtures in the city of Camilla, GA, has been Hays LTI. Originally founded in 1970, the company is today well-known for its many agricultural equipment offerings, such as dry fertilizer tenders and liquid tankers, along with exceptional customer service. In addition, says Donna Hays Stewart, one of the Co-Owners and Secretary/Treasurer, Hays LTI customers also appreciate the feeling of family that helps drive the company forward in this day-and-age.
“If there is one word that best describes Hays as a company today, it would be commitment,” says Stewart. “We not only treat our customers as family, but this sense of commitment runs throughout our company, from the way we treat our employees to the family members that are active in making the business work.”
A Family Affair
In truth, it’s no surprise a commitment to family and quality are the best words to describe Hays LTI. According to Co-Owner/President Ronald Hays, this “family feeling” goes all the way back to when his parents first founded the company. “Ray and Kay Hays started the business back in 1970 manufacturing fertilizer-hauling equipment, but the heart and success of his business was family, friendship, relationship, and generosity,” says Hays. “And this was something that was passed onto all of us kids from the very beginning – but especially after we started getting involved in the business ourselves.”
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, the Hays family kept working to build up the business by diversifying its product offerings and steadily expanding the company’s production facility. Then, however, the infamous economic “farm crash” of the mid-1980s happened. As agricultural activity slowed down significantly as a result, Ray Hays decided to take a job working for a farmer friend in Georgia. “It was at that point Donna and I took over the running of the family business,” says Hays.
Even as a lot of the agricultural industry struggled during this time, Hays LTI found itself able to maintain its base, says Hays. “We had spent all those years building up great relationships with our customers, as our parents had taught us how to do, and they really loved us,” he says. “So we were able to keep going without too many disruptions during this time.”
During the 1990s, Stewart and Hays worked to keep the Hays LTI business running, primarily focusing on the company’s traditionally strong sales markets in the Southeast. But as the 20th century ended and the agricultural economy continued to improve, Hays began thinking about expanding the business into other parts of the U.S.
“As a company, we had, at that time, started branching out into making tenders and fiberglass tankers, so expanding our territory seemed to make sense,” he says. “And we’ve been growing ever since.”
Of course, building up the Hays LTI business so much over the early years of the 21st century put a bit of a strain on the company’s older production facility, he adds. “So after 45 years, we decided it was time to build something more modern to help our business keep up with demand,” says Hays. “In 2015, we found 60 acres of land in the area that we thought would fit our future needs and began construction.”
According to Hays, this new facility was designed to help the company expand in whichever direction it needed to. It featured several different buildings for all of Hays LTI’s different manufacturing processes. This included a main plant, a building for carbon welding, one for assembly, a repair shop, a pre-fabrication building, a stainless steel welding shop, a service shop, one for sand-blasting, and a primer/paint shop. The new facility has strengthened the company’s commitment to build all products from the ground up and address lead times.
Like many other manufacturing companies, Hays LTI has been dealing with a world in the grips of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. “Overall, the impact on our business has been minimal,” says Hays. “We have 10 different buildings, so we were able to keep our employees as separated as much as possible during COVID. But what we really missed was not going to trade shows and seeing our customers and friends in person. I’m hopeful this part of our business will get back to normal sometime next year.”
Further forward, both Hays and Stewart see no major changes on the horizon for what Hays LTI has been as a company. “Lots of companies make things, but I think our equipment has always sold itself because of its quality,” says Stewart. “And I think it will continue to help open more doors up for us going into the future.”
Hays agrees. “The Hays family has been doing this business for a long time, more than 40 years for us kids,” he says. “And I predict we will continue to be here for a long time yet to come!”