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Nothing sprays like a Hagie

By Staff | Apr 7, 2016

HAGIE EMPLOYEES Teresa Lancaster and Clint Middleton, both of Clarion, work over a departmental issue by writing notes on their table top. Both employees said they see the new partnership with John Deere as a win for the company and the community.

CLARION – Since March 30, when Hagie Manufacturing and Deere & Co. announced they are forming a new partnership, rumors spread rampantly throughout the region that the smaller company was in trouble.

That Hagie’s trademark yellow high-clearance sprayers would turn green and carry the John Deere logo.

That the manufacturing plant will close and its 400 employees will be out of work.

According to Alan Hagie, former president and chief executive officer of Hagie Manufacturing, who has moved into innovation and research and development, those reports, and many others, are unfounded.

Instead, said Kent Klemme, new president of Hagie Manufacturing and is representing John Deere as part of a transition team, the partnership details a historic move for Deere & Co.

LOOKING OVER ONE of Hagie’s high-clearance sprayers is Kent Klemme, left, a 15-year John Deere employee and part of the transition team, and Alan Hagie, president of Hagie Manufacturing in Clarion.

Klemme said Deere has never acquired another company, maintaining the company’s brand and color, and selling them side-by-side with its green machines in its dealerships.

“We came to Hagie. We wanted to partner with them because Hagie is known for innovation in sprayers.” he said.

“We intend to keep the product in Clarion.”

He added that many of Deere’s loyal customers have Hagie sprayers on their farms already, because the product line fits those operations better than Deere’s own sprayers.

But that’s not all, Klemme said.

“We chose Hagie because of the way it does business and they have skill sets John Deere doesn’t have.”

Those include Hagie’s thorough understanding of late-season corn production and the way it provides custom solutions for its customers.

“John Deere likes to build a lot of the same things,” Klemme said.

“Hagie likes to build different things. Many of our customers buy Hagie sprayers because of the options the machines provide,” he said.

“Our customers want these products and we don’t have them.”

Hagie confirmed that Deere & Co. purchased a majority share of the company’s equity, but did not want to buy the company outright.

“This will allow us to stay innovative and to get new technology out quickly,” he said.

Hagie was “on the fence” for seven weeks before deciding that joining Deere was the right move. He said he understands that 69 years ago, when his grandfather, Ray Hagie, created the world’s first self-propelled sprayer, the company’s success was not considered essential for Clarion’s well-being.

But with the future of 400 employees at stake, the decision had to be weighed carefully.

A Clarion native, Hagie decided that to stay independent “was the selfish move.”

Whereas, partnering with Deere “is the right thing. We have good products. We can grow more jobs and get innovations onto more farms,” he said.

“I’m excited that we can solve more problems for more people.”

In addition, Hagie said his company will not be going anywhere, as long as it keeps performing.

“We must keep developing our machines,” he said. “If we don’t do that, we won’t survive, with or without Deere.”

Marketing for all

Where many equipment manufacturers are struggling with falling sales because of low-price commodities, Hagie said, his company, which was not in financial trouble, sold out of its 2016 machines and is currently retooling to begin building its 2017 production line starting in July – filling backorders.

He said many farmers, custom sprayers and cooperatives are looking at the high-clearance sprayers as a way to better manage row crops because they are capable of getting into fields late in the corn-growing season. This allows farmers to better manage the cost of production by applying fertilizer and other inputs when the plants need those most.

Because of this, Hagie said, the demand for Hagie sprayers was growing so fast they had to turn away new customers because they didn’t have the support system in those regions.

That has changed now, he said, because Hagie sprayers will now be marketed through John Deere dealerships across the United States.

According to Klemme, Deere benefits “because this is a product not in the Deere line, but fits in well with our dealerships.

“We offer a bigger reach and give more customers access to the Hagie line.”

Affected employees

The agreement means that its five nationwide service centers will be closed and the techs and sales staff can seek employment with Deere dealerships, because they know the systems, Hagie said.

Klemme confirmed that, saying he expects those at the service centers will have no trouble finding positions within Deere.

“They are the only employees who are affected,” Klemme said.

Hagie said with the expanded marketing through Deere dealers, he expects the company’s future will include more employees and a bigger footprint in Clarion.

If more manufacturing square footage is needed, it will mean expanding Hagie’s east campus, where the machines are assembled.

Hagie employees Teresa Lancaster and Clint Middleton, both of Clarion, are talent development coaches for Hagie’s corporate culture. They are excited about the new partnership.

“Everyone wants to have an impact,” said Lancaster, who has been a Hagie employee since 2008. “Here is a giant of giant corporations who want to partner with you. And we get to be a part of that.

“It’s exciting and I speak for a lot of employees.”

Middleton, a 12-year Hagie employee, said he thinks the partnership will benefit Clarion as a whole.

“Widening sales distribution will increase production,” he said. “That will bring more people to Clarion and will strengthen the local economy.”

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