RDO acquires Evergreen Implement
Last updated 3/7/2018 at 4:43pm
RDO Equipment Co. announced the acquisition of equipment dealership Evergreen Implement at the end of February. This adds stores in Coulee City, Moses Lake, Othello, Pasco and Ritzville to RDO Equipment Co.’s existing network, which includes Pasco and Sunnyside in the state of Washington.
RDO Equipment Co. began with one man and a single equipment store in a small farming town, and throughout several years of strategic moves and capitalizing on opportunities, grew into the company it is today, serving customers in numerous industries at more than 80 locations. Evergreen Implement shares similar roots, starting from its early days as a single John Deere agriculture equipment store to its unique focus on customers, employees, partners and the community.
Evergreen Implement was founded by Roger Thieme in 1966. Like many who grew up on a farm, his career eventually brought him back to agriculture when he began working for John Deere. Not long after being assigned a territory that included Othello, Wash., Thieme had a partnership opportunity to buy the John Deere dealership in town. Shortly thereafter, Evergreen Implement was born. It began with that one store in Othello and five employees, focused on selling and supporting John Deere agriculture equipment.
Throughout the years, Evergreen Implement grew – in team members, locations and solutions offered. The year 1989 saw the first expansion, with a new store in Moses Lake.
“We saw opportunity in Moses Lake for years prior to having a store there,” Thieme said. At the time, John Deere was very careful about how dealers were expanding; the company didn’t want any getting too big (RDO Equipment Co. had a similar experience during these years). But Thieme wanted to provide support for customers in that area so began selling parts out of a small store. About three years later, John Deere gave Evergreen Implement the go-ahead to add the store. The number of stores doubled in 2004, with the additions of the Coulee City and Ritzville locations.
During these years of growth and success, Evergreen Implement continued to seek opportunities to diversify and expand. One of the biggest opportunities the company identified since the mid-80s: potatoes. Rich Mollette, Evergreen Implement CEO and a 40-year employee, explained the energy behind the interest in adding equipment, parts and service for potato growers.
“The customers we were serving primarily operated on a spring-planting to fall-harvest schedule, so our business wasn’t as busy in the late fall and winter months.” Molette continued to explain that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, saying, “Our service shop stayed busy and we had years we were still profitable all 12 months,” but the company wanted to better utilize all its resources and meet the needs of the large number of potato and row crop growers in the Pasco area.
In 2005, after 20 years of learning the industry and customers, and working with suppliers, Evergreen Implement entered the potato equipment business with one store and one salesman. That store, located in Pasco, now has five dedicated employees serving the potato industry, and the complete Evergreen Implement company includes 85 team members across its five locations. The past 10 years have brought more of the same – successful years mixed with the ebbs and flows of the agricultural economy.
A new direction
This year, after more than 50 years in the dealership business, Roger Thieme made a choice that would set the tone for the next 50, when he decided it was time to retire. Because of a longtime friendship with RDO Equipment Co. founder, Ron Offutt, and encouragement from John Deere, Thieme chose to partner with RDO Equipment Co. In addition, there were several, deeper factors that motivated his decision to sell Evergreen Implement to RDO Equipment Co. One of the biggest: again, potatoes.
“Ron knows potatoes. No question about that,” Thieme said. Offutt grew up on a potato farm and spent his early years as a potato farmer, making him very comfortable with that key side of the business – the area of the business Thieme and his team put so much time and energy into launching and building in the Columbia Basin region. But perhaps more important than Offutt’s knowledge, Thieme knew RDO Equipment Co.’s values and philosophies were the same as his company’s, something Offutt also recognized.
“We saw the pattern of respect. The way they treated customers mirrored how we treated ours, and we have several shared customers already. It was a relatively easy decision to make,” Offutt said.
A final and leading factor came down to Evergreen Implement’s greatest assets: employees. Most were shocked by Thieme’s decision to retire. However, RDO’s decision to retain all staff members was a final, key piece of the partnership puzzle. Offutt and the other RDO leadership team members involved in the process completely agreed and assured Thieme all would retain a job.
The RDO team is eager to bring on Evergreen Implement’s staff and expertise. Ian Carey, vice president at RDO Equipment Co., says he sees great potential to provide new opportunities to customers, from both an expanded territory and equipment offerings.
Keith Kreps, executive vice president at RDO Equipment Co., also feels the companies’ similar values will ensure a smooth transition for employees and result in a better experience for all customers.
“Evergreen Implement has a rich history and culture that mirrors RDO Equipment Co. We have worked alongside their team for many years as we share mutual customers, and this acquisition is exciting because it brings our teams together as one, cohesive solutions provider.”
All members of the teams, with the exception of one – while Thieme is the only Evergreen Implement employee not joining RDO Equipment Co., he’ll be staying busy in the Othello community. He’s currently working on a project to bring a state-of-the-art animal shelter to the city, both because the cause is important to him and because he’s always looking for ways to invest in the community he has grown to love.
Evergreen Implement officially became part of RDO Equipment Co. on February 23. Customers and community members can connect with RDO Equipment Co. and stay up-to-date on news and events by following on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, as well as visiting http://www.rdoequipment.com.
Fourth-generation potato farmer Ron Offutt worked in the fields alongside his father throughout his school years and post-college until 1968 when the opportunity to expand the family enterprise led to the purchase of a John Deere dealership in Casselton, North Dakota. Offutt leveraged the assets he had by selling 160 acres of farmland and a potato warehouse, and taking a loan from his grandmother.
Given Offutt’s natural business style, along with his understanding of what customers needed to succeed, the store soon prospered. Customers in the area came to know Offutt’s store as a trusted industry resource and a place where they would receive individualized care and respect — characteristics still ingrained in the company’s business practices today. With the knowledge gained from launching the initial store, RDO Equipment Co. grew to become a provider of state-of-the-art products and support for the agriculture and construction industries.
RDO Equipment Co. remains a family owned and operated business with the next generation fulfilling executive leadership roles. Ron’s daughter Christi Offutt has served as the company’s COO and CEO since 2001. She joined the organization in 1997 as legal counsel and served in many capacities including vice president of strategic planning and senior vice president of Midwest Agriculture. Christi works out the Fargo office, but spends the majority of her time in the field at one of the organization’s stores across nine states. In 2014, she was named chair of the board of directors. Ron’s son Ryan Offutt serves as executive vice president in charge of the company’s international operations in Russia, Ukraine, and Australia. He joined the organization in 2003 as director of human resources and communications, and in 2006 he took on responsibilities related to the company’s international expansion in Russia and was named vice president for international business.
Today the company owns and operates more than 75 dealerships in 10 states, focused on agriculture, construction, environmental, tree care, underground and machine control, RDO Water, and sells quality brands such as John Deere, Vermeer, and Topcon. In addition, the company currently operates in several international partnerships, including multiple locations in Russia, Ukraine, and Australia.