AGCO celebrates expansion, marks commitment to quality and innovation
JACKSON -- Standing before a large gathering of dealers and press from more than a dozen media outlets from around the country, AGCO Chairman and CEO Martin Richenhagen celebrated the grand opening of the new AGCO Intivity Center and expanded manufacturing space Thursday morning in Jackson by sharing his dreams for the growing company.
"When I came to the U.S., I always had a dream -- the dream was to build a factory for wheel tractors in America. We are very, very happy to be here," he said.
After nearly five years of visioning and more than a year of construction, the new 75,000-square-foot addition to AGCO Jackson's operations is poised to launch the company into a new frontier with plans for new products and a push for increased sales in North America. With the expansion brought the additional manufacturing of the Massey Ferguson 8600 series and Challenger MT600D series high-horsepower row crop tractors to Jackson.
"AGCO is always growing," Richenhagen said, adding that after nearly $9 billion in sales in 2011, the company is anticipating $10.5 billion in sales this year. At the same time, AGCO is investing $350 million in research and development this year and another $350 million in capital improvements at facilities in Germany, China, France and Finland.
"We are growing all over the world, we are growing into new regions and we are growing into new products, such as self-propelled sugar cane harvesters in South America and Florida," Richenhagen said. Self-propelled forage harvesters under the Fendt brand will also be available soon in the U.S., he added.
All of the company's growth has led to a steady stream of new employees. In 2011, AGCO added 500 jobs in the U.S. alone, and there are still 40 jobs unfilled at the facility in Jackson.
That, said Richenhagen, has been a challenge.
"Some Americans don't want to move to Jackson, but we will get there," he said. "We're talking about hiring younger people -- college graduates, high school graduates -- and we will train them in-house."
Despite some challenges in filling certain positions, AGCO North America's Senior Vice President and General Manager Bob Crain said there was no doubt about choosing Jackson for its expansion.
"Just about everybody here in the workforce touches agriculture. You can't put a price tag on that," Crain said. "The number who go home and farm 1,000 acres on the weekend blows your minds. They truly appreciate what (each) piece does for AGCO -- that was huge.
"I truly believe that agriculture and innovation has a new hometown, and that new hometown is in Jackson, Minnesota," Crain added.
Showcase on the prairie
The latest AGCO expansion has led to nearly 15.5 acres of manufacturing space, offices and showroom area under roof -- a rather impressive feat considering the humble beginnings of Ag-Chem in a 25,000-square-foot facility constructed in Jackson in 1970.
The brainchild of Al McQuinn, Ag-Chem was created in 1963 with the production of TerraGator and RoGator applicators, which continue to be manufactured at the Jackson facility today. Ag-Chem was sold to AGCO in 2001, joining a long list of other brands including Hesston, Gleaner, Massey Ferguson, Fendt and Challenger
"These brands have provided a strong foundation upon which to build," said Steve Koep, AGCO North America's vice president of sales. "The history of these brands, however, goes much deeper than the 20-year history of AGCO. The product innovations they represent have helped change the entire agricultural industry."
The innovations and inventions that went into Ag-Chem and AGCO are told in the story boards, videos and interactive displays showcased in the newly opened Intivity Center. Anticipated to welcome more than 10,000 visitors in the first 12 months it is open, the showroom offers the public an opportunity to see how the one-time California Crawler led to the Holt Caterpillar Co. in the early 1900s and view the changes that have taken place through the years. Also featured in the Intivity Center are several AGCO products, from the Massey Ferguson wheeled tractor to the Challenger track tractor and applicators.
While the Intivity Center doesn't open to the public until Monday, there will be a special celebration for employees, their families and local residents from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday. The center will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, excluding holidays, and there is no charge to visit. Tours of the manufacturing facility are available by reservation only. More information about tours can be found at http://jackson.agcocorp.com.
"The new assembly center and Intivity Center is going to provide a first-class experience to showcase our best-in-class equipment," Crain said. "We're going to stress the quality that's put in this equipment. It's a place that (dealers are) going to be able to build solid relationships and loyalty with customers, and more importantly, capture those new customers who have never considered one of the AGCO brands on their yards before.
"The Intivity Center is a tribute to the passion of the inventors and the innovators who have pioneered the agricultural equipment business not just in North America, but around the world," he added. "It shows off the proud heritage and the rich history. We've got to look forward to where we're going and that's what the center is going to do -- help set the stage of where we're taking the company."
With the expansion of AGCO Jackson and plans to add more product lines to the facility in the future, Koep said it will be a catalyst to take company sales and marketing to the next level.
"We thought by manufacturing products in North America, we could better configure our equipment to our customers' needs and reduce our product lead time," he said. "We felt it was going to be very positive for our dealers and our customers."
In terms of new innovations and products for the company, Richenhagen said the immediate goal is to focus on American-made production, including manufacturing smaller tractors to meet customer demand.
"Long-term, the idea is to become completely independent," Richenhagen said. "We would like to have everything we sell in America produced in America, and we are getting there. This is an important first step.
"We really want to grow in America, and we want to grow more in America than in any other area of the world," he added.
Still, AGCO has its eye on emerging markets, particularly in China and Africa. Massey Ferguson has about 25 percent of the African market.
"We have plenty of ideas, we have a good plan, we will manufacture in Africa very soon," Richenhagen said.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.