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Agrimarketing : October 2008
COVER STORY: VERMEER CORPORATION — 60 YEARS OF SUCCESS! A KING IN THE NICHE MARKETS W by Lynn Henderson, Editorial Director hen central Iowa farmer Gary Vermeer created his first invention 60 years ago — a hoist to dump ear corn from a wagon replacing hand shoveling — he prob- ably never envisioned he was on the threshold of building a company that now has independent, authorized dealerships located in 32 countries. But through steady management, an all-American work ethic and an imaginative spirit, that is exactly the position Pella, Iowa-based Vermeer Corporation holds today. “I call Vermeer ‘King of the Niche Markets,’” one respected industry observer says. “They have a knack for identifying a need in what would be considered ‘niche,’ underserved markets, introducing an innovative machine that completes the task bet- ter, and quickly grows to be the leader in that space. In many cases, they have created the market.” Best known within the ag industry for the large round hay baler it intro- duced in 1971, Vermeer Corporation has also successfully introduced machines for grinding, chipping, trenching, drilling and composting for construction, utility installation, sur- face mining, landscaping, tree removal and other industries. “Our goal is to grow revenues 10% to 15% each year,” says Bob Vermeer, Chairman/co-CEO of the company, and one of Gary’s three children. Start- ing his career with a bank in Pella, Bob joined the company in its accounting and financing departments before being promoted to his current position in 1989. To accom- plish that goal, the company continually launches improved tech- nology for its present lines, develops new equipment for additional mar- kets, and is aggressively expanding its global reach. Along the way, they have been making some key acquisitions, as well (see Vermeer Timeline). Vermeer Corporation’s headquarters and six of its plants are located along a one-mile stretch of Vermeer Road east of Pella, IA. Armed with the hands-on knowl- edge he earned from being a farmer, Gary was always on the lookout for finding, as he describes it, “a better way” to get the many tasks done required by farming. “So, his first inventions all had direct agricultural application,” Bob explains. “It started with the wagon hoist, then a corn grinder to make feed, a trench- ing machine for field tiling, a self- propelled irrigation system, a stump cutter, the large, round baler, plus many others. “As the company perfected the machines for the ag market,” Bob explains, “it then sought additional markets and made the necessary adap- tations to their current products for their new applications, as well as adding more products to the Vermeer line.” KEY STATISTICS * Company owns 336 acres east of Pella, IA. Its manufacturing facility occu- pies 110 of those acres and is located along a mile long stretch of “Vermeer Road.” • It processes 200 tons of steel each day. • Employs approximately 2,000 people. • Its global pavilion features a 45,000 sq. ft. arena, nine meeting rooms, 108- seat auditorium, fossil wall displaying past Vermeer equipment parts and the Vermeer museum and gift shop. • The recently published book about the Vermeer Corporation, its founding and its family can be ordered by going to www.vermeer.com. Editor’s note: the book is a must-read for anyone who is serious about being a successful agri-marketer. AM TODAY’S AG GROUP Heading up Vermeer’s agricultural product segment is Mark Core, the company’s VP/Forage Solutions. In addition to those responsibilities, Core is also in charge of Corporate Marketing, parts, and market research. An Iowa State University graduate, Core spent the first nine years of his career with Syntex before joining Vermeer in 1996. “We specialize in providing for- age handling equipment,” Core says. Vermeer’s forage products include the round baler (of which there are now several model sizes), mowers, hay rakes, rotary hay tenders, bale wrappers, bale processors and bale carriers. Nine years ago, it recognized the emerging rural lifestyle consumer mar- ket and successfully launched a line of smaller-sized round balers for it. The company has approximately 430 independent, authorized distrib- utorships who are serviced by 13 territory managers. These distribu- tors handle the Vermeer forage equipment. The company has a sepa- rate dealer distribution and sales force for its industrial equipment in the other markets it serves. “Gary started the business with farmer-dealers who only handled Vermeer equipment and they cur- rently compose one-third of our dis- tribution,” Core says. Another third are short-line dealers carrying an array of farm equipment, while the balance would be termed “full (more on page 19) October 2008 ¦ AgriMarketing 17
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