AGCO announces major expansion; governor praises all involved
JACKSON -- The employees of AGCO Jackson Operations are about to see red -- Massey Ferguson red, that is.
In what was billed as the worst-kept secret in AGCO history, Eric Fisher, director of AGCO Jackson Operations, made an expansion announcement official before hundreds of cheering company employees and executives, as well as city, county and state leaders, inside one of the facility's buildings in Jackson's industrial park Thursday afternoon.
AGCO plans to break ground in mid-May on a 75,000-square-foot addition to its tractor assembly building that will extend the assembly line by 125 feet. The addition will also include a 42,000-square-foot kitting center (an advanced system to deliver parts and material to the assembly line), and a 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art visitor center.
More than 100 jobs will be created as the company establishes itself as the "North American home of the best, most fuel-efficient, high-horsepower row crop tractor in the industry," Fisher said. Joining their already successful line of track tractors, AGCO Jackson Operations will be building the Massey Ferguson 8600 series, Challenger MT600C series and select models of the MT500, 7400 series and Massey Ferguson 6400 series tractors.
Fisher said the expansion will include moving the existing tractor assembly line to the east side of its production building, incorporating in-line painting and adding some of the "latest technologies" to the line.
"By the end of the year, with limited production, we will roll out the first Massey Ferguson 8600 tractor, our first MT600 Challenger tractor and we will have had our first visitor come through the customer center," Fisher said. "It's an aggressive timeline, but I know we have the team here that will get it done."
Joining in Thursday's celebration was newly-elected Gov. Mark Dayton, who made a grand entrance into the press conference by getting a ride in the cab of a new Massey Ferguson tractor. After making his way to the stage, he said he was thankful he didn't "do a header," while stepping out of the tractor in front of a throng of onlookers.
He continued to draw laughter when he said he felt like the football player that got picked up the last day on waivers and got to go with the team to the Super Bowl.
"AGCO, I cannot express our gratitude to you for what you're doing for the state of Minnesota and the importance of this project," Dayton said. "I want to give credit to my predecessor, Gov. Pawlenty, and his administration, the Department of Employment and Economic Development ... city officials, the county -- everyone who pulled together and worked so hard to put together an economic development package that will keep jobs and add jobs for the benefit of this part of the state and for all of Minnesota. This is a day of great celebration."
Bob Crain, senior vice president and general manager for AGCO North America, said it was also a wonderful day for the AGCO family.
"This is a culmination of a vision some of us put together four years ago -- to bring high-horsepower tractors back to North America," Crain said.
Understandably, communities were "standing in line, wanting to bring this to their area," Crain announced to the crowd. "The work that you're doing here in Jackson -- building Challenger tractors and application tractors -- that was a major part of our decision. You know agriculture.
"We don't have a factory maybe in the world where you, our employees, are so tied to agriculture," he added. "When you've got people, like yourself, tied some way to agriculture, you're going to have a darn good product every time. That, and your work ethic, is what really drove it to Jackson."
Jackson was in direct competition with Georgia for the North American Massey Ferguson production line, and Crain said the improvements made to the Jackson AGCO facility in the last two to three years helped make the decision. Its location will offer shorter lead times, flexible customer configurations, lower shipping costs and the quality customers expect.
The expansion would not have been possible in Jackson without financial assistance, and the city, county and state stepped up to help make this new project a reality.
"The combination of local and state incentives as well as the tremendous workforce here and the opportunity to continue to be successful and profitable here carried the day," Dayton said after the press conference. "We want to win more of those contests with other states and continue to add jobs for Minnesota."
Dayton, who once served as commissioner of the state's energy and economic development department, said the Minnesota Investment Fund was a "major financial participant" in the project.
Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, said the state has been working -- and continues to work on -- an incentive package for AGCO.
"If we'd lost out in the competition for this site, we would have likely lost several employees here, so not only are we adding some, but we've kept the ones we had," Magnus said. "In my opinion, really the key ... was the people we had here in the audience -- the 900 people we have on the Jackson campus. They're a proven commodity. When you've got people like that and you work the way they do, with the quality of work they do, that is ... the strongest selling point I think we have."
Newly elected Jackson Mayor Wayne Walter said AGCO's announcement is great for the town. Now, with more than 100 jobs to be created in the community, he said they will begin work to address housing.
"We've got a development area in town for housing," Walter said. "There's been talk about getting someone to come in and build us some spec houses. We've got a lot to get done in this next year."