Valley Tractor and Equipment Inc.
Valley Tractor and Equipment Inc. (Valley Tractor) opened its doors in 1946 as a division of Ford dealer Uecker Brothers Motors (UBM) in Cashmere, Wash. Valley Tractor started off on the right foot, as UBM sold cars, trucks and tractors from the leading manufacturer, all under the same roof, until 1948.
At that time, Valley Tractor opened a new, independent location. Valley Tractor has grown steadily over the years, moving four times, each into a larger space to accommodate an increase in business. The Valley Tractor team currently operates out of a custom-built facility in East Wenatchee, Wash.
Dale Hall, current general manager of Valley Tractor, is new to the farm equipment industry, making the transition to the company in 2012. “I worked with Treetop, an apple processor, for two years after college,” Hall explains. “It was a much larger operation, and in order to move up I’d have had to move around.”
However, Valley Tractor was a much better fit for all parties. “My family is in Wenatchee,” details Hall. “My father-in-law, Brian Nelson [co-owner of Valley Tractor since 1974] is a business partner of Buell Hawkins’ [general manager and co-owner of Valley Tractor] since 1979. Buell was looking for a transition plan and recruited me because I was familiar with the industry; I have a master’s degree in business, and there was a family connection. It was a natural fit and provided a sustainable transition for Valley Tractor’s employees and customers.”
Leading Products and Services
Due to the company’s esteemed reputation, Valley Tractor will celebrate 70 years of business in 2016. With close ties to the region and longstanding relationships with clients, the company’s longevity comes as no surprise. “We are a one-store dealer,” Hall explains. “We cover a large geographic area, but we are able to do that because we are a relationship-based business. Our niche is in compact industrial and agricultural equipment.”
Additionally, Valley Tractor has established a position as a regional leader in equipment sales and rentals. “Formerly a John Deere and New Holland Dealer, we are exclusively a Kubota tractor dealer these days, selling and renting equipment that fits our customers’ needs,” Hall elaborates. “We also provide parts, service and a wide variety of implements and attachments for these machines, which helps us to retain a customer base.”
However, Hall acknowledges the importance of integrated diversity. “The bread-and-butter of our business is in orchard equipment sales and service,” he says. “We work with Kubota and the growers to develop equipment unique to our industry. We supplement our ag and construction business with homeowner and landscaping equipment with brands such as Stihl and Toro. And we have been able to expand our Kubota equipment line-up into excavators, compact construction equipment and tractor loaders and backhoes through our rental fleet.”
A Team Driven by Ambition
Of course, the team is sure to set Valley Tractor ahead of the completion. “We have one of the most knowledgeable and experienced orchard equipment industry staffs in the region,” Hall continues. “Over half of our 28 department managers and employees have worked for Valley Tractor or within the industry for 30 years or more; and when it comes to rental we just hired a new manager with over 20 years of rental experience. We are not a traditional rental store; the majority of our rental equipment is less than 2 years old.”
The team also recognizes the importance of staying abreast the industry’s latest. “We are constantly monitoring our fleet to make sure we are investing in well-utilized equipment that fits our customers’ needs and we can sell two years later at a good price,” says Hall. “This way we can cover our investment costs while maintaining a young low maintenance fleet that is a pleasure to work with.”
Hall is sure to give credit where credit is due for the company’s success. “Our rental manager deserves a lot of credit for the improvements in rental, bringing a significant amount of traditional experience in the rental industry, but open to new trends and philosophy unique to our dealership,” Hall explains. “This can be said for all of our department managers and employees, as well as Kubota, which is why I wanted to come to Valley Tractor.”
The team at Valley Tractor appreciates its working relationships, as well. “Working with Kubota, Valley Tractor is seeing a range of new innovations in equipment,” says Hall. “Increased government regulated emissions standards are requiring manufacturers to produce more efficient machinery. The whole industry will eventually be required to meet those green standards to stay in the industry; Kubota has been staying ahead of the curve in that aspect.”
According to Hall, Kubota has earned positive credits by meeting and exceeding emissions standards. “This means they can continue to roll out older model machinery longer than the competition,” Hall says. “This results in a price advantage and a smoother transition to the Tier 4 emission standard equipment. We have a really strong relationship with Kubota, and our mechanics are Kubota certified. They are trained to work on all of the current and incoming equipment, which means we can service everything ourselves. They attend training classes through Kubota.”
Despite the economic downturn, business has remained stable for Valley Tractor. “Agriculture in our region has remained strong, especially for the tree fruit growers,” Hall notes. “For rentals, construction and homeowner projects, we definitely felt the downturn. In 2009 Buell started to feel it financially.”
However, through a collective management decision Valley Tractor retained each of its employees by taking a 12-percent reduction in pay across the board, rather than lay off a single employee. “It was a group decision and a tribute to Valley Tractor’s culture,” says Hall. “Everybody sacrificed for the benefit of the team.”
According to Hall, the company continued the trend through 2009 and 2010. “In the meantime, we worked on finding ways to cut costs and be more efficient,” Hall says. “After two years, Valley Tractor was profitable. Buell and Nelson repaid all the deductions to employee salaries plus interest. It was awesome.”
Hall and his team believe in working together both for each other, as well as for the company. “My No. 1 goal looking forward is to maintain the company culture that Buell and Nelson have created,” Hall says. “The way we treat people and employees does not have to change with the economy and the industry. We want to bring that forward, to retain and seek out employees with the right knowledge, experience and character that will benefit our customers and community.”
Valley Tractor has managed to make various contributions to the community over the years. Hall and the team are heavily involved in the Washington Apple Education foundation, the local high school level 4-H Club and National FFA Organization, as well as numerous other community events. As always, the company puts people first, a quality that has helped the Valley Tractor and Equipment Inc. team sustain relationships and business growth throughout the years.
For more information about Valley Tractor and Equipment Inc., please visit: www.valleytractor.com.