For more than 50 years, Ag Builders has been serving farmers, elevators and area agribusinesses in southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa. Ag Builders has steadily expanded its geographical footprint in recent years, striving to serve producers as a one-stop shop for all grain-handling, drying and storage facilities, post-frame buildings, steel-frame buildings, flat storage, feed mills, customized grain dump stations and overhead loadout systems.
“Over the years, we’ve been blessed with a loyal clientele that extends some 80 miles from our home base in Windom, Minnesota,” says Glen Francis, second-generation owner of Ag Builders. “In more recent years, we have had great success and have expanded our parameters to a couple of hundred miles. We reached out a little further in our commercial business. Word had got around about our quality of work and we talked to a few guys outside of our normal range who were interested in building grain-handling systems and they chose us. This is what started the expansion.”
Building on years of experience
Word-of-mouth referrals have long been the best form of advertising for Ag Builders even back when Glen’s father, Vern Francis, started the company in 1969. The business has changed its name several times over its life span. “Originally, we did a lot of commercial work,” says Glen. “We choose to stay a little closer to home and diversify.”
Glen eventually changed the name to reflect the company’s geographic scope. Today, Ag Builders draws on more than 50 years of experience in agricultural facilities and equipment. Ag Builders represents some of the top names in the business, including GSI, Behlen, Conrad American, Sudenga Industries Inc., Schlegel, Wick Buildings and more. Close vendor relationships are essential to the company’s success — in fact, Ag Builders just received a Building of the Year award from Wick Buildings.
The company has a 25-person team, including a service department that maintains, repairs and services a variety of customers in the grain elevator, feed mill and farm business, encompassing those who are involved in handling grain, feed and fertilizer. “We also have an electrical staff to maintain and repair grain dryers through the busy harvest season when our customers can’t afford system downtime,” says Glen.
At its headquarters in East Windom, Ag Builders has an expanded showroom floor space, offices and repair shop. Ag Builders’ myriad products include: grain bins, grain dump stations and pits, bucket elevators and conveyors, both farm and commercial grain dryers, round bin and square bin loadout facilities, grain bin temperature control systems and aeration, feed mill equipment, truck scales and more.
Whether a customer is starting from the ground up or trying to integrate new technology into a full system, Ag Builders offers the in-house engineering and support to get the job done. “Many of our projects are custom design-build starting with design and construction drawings,” explains Glen. “These are produced by our in-house engineering staff. The project continues with the physical layout, dirt work, concrete work, and equipment installation to complete each project.”
In the past, Ag Builders has always built each project — both commercial and farm — in-house, but Glen says the company has added a team of trusted subcontractors. “As sales increase, we’ve been able to hire quality subcontractors to work on-site with our staff to oversee the completion of each project by harvest,” says Glen.
With more geographic expansion, Ag Builders business is now split between commercial and farm-related projects. “Now that we have some guys that are willing to go on the road, we can serve a broader range of customers,” says Glen. “Last year, less farm work was coming in, so we committed to more commercial stuff. After we committed to more commercial work, farm customers started coming in and so we had no choice but to bring in some subs. But on every project we still have one of our guys overseeing the project.”
“We often have three or four projects going on at the same time,” says Glen. “We typically call on the same subs, including many local guys within 60 miles.”
Commercial projects in Chandler and Pipestone, Minnesota, had the Ag Builders crew on the road frequently in the last year. “Both of these projects were commercial; one was a feed mill loadout facility and another was a flat storage building with a built-in dumping station for corn,” notes Glen. “We also completed an interesting residential project in 2015 that won the Building of the Year award from Wick Buildings. We turned a pole barn into a home. Between commercial projects and more farm/residential jobs, we had a great year.”
Ag Builders has an extensive line of its own equipment to help expedite the building process. “We have our own equipment dealing business, called GDF Enterprises, which deals in Bobcats, Mahindra tractors and Toro,” says Glen. “We have a 90-ton Grove crane, three 40-ton National cranes and we use Ingersoll Rand telehandlers. We have strong ties with Conrad American, Sudenga and GSI — these are the big three.”
Taking care of customers and employees
Glen says in the close-knit industry, where everyone knows everyone, simply taking care of customers has seen Ag Builders through lean times and solidified its reputation. “When we take care of customers, they take care of us,” he says. “As long as there is a crop to grow and livestock to feed, there will be agricultural grainhandling equipment to build, service and repair. And as long as we do our job, we look forward to taking care of our customers for a long time to come.”
Ag Builders has solidified many longstanding relationships with customers and strives to treat its employees like family, creating a close-knit environment in the field, on the job site and in the office. “We strive to treat our customers and employees as family,” says Glen. “The better we take care of our family, the better they take care of us.” Under this mantra, Ag Builders continues to build on decades of industry ties as a trusted name in top-quality agricultural products and expert construction.