Archive for Thursday, August 6, 2009

Heritage Tractor buys Lawrence dealership in latest expansion

August 6, 2009

Lawrence’s longtime John Deere dealership has been sold to a Baldwin City company, and soon may be looking to relocate from its home along busy 23rd Street.

Baldwin-based Heritage Tractor Inc took over ownership of Deems Farm Equipment on Saturday, said Ken Wagner, CEO and president of Heritage Tractor. Wagner is also mayor of Baldwin City.

Wagner said the company was leasing the Deems building at 1110 E. 23rd St. for the next year, but also was looking at other options.

“Our intent is to stay in the Lawrence area,” Wagner said. “We may change locations, though, to make it a little more accessible for the farmers. Traffic out there is a little bit of an issue.”

Deems has been operating in Lawrence since 1954 and is owned by relatives of the original Deems family that founded the dealership, according to a company Web site.

Attempts to reach Kevin Harper, Deems’ general manager, were unsuccessful. A representative of the business said the company’s owners did not wish to comment until the sale was finalized.

Heritage owns dealerships in Baldwin City — where the company has its headquarters — and also in Topeka; Paola; Harrisonville, Mo.; and Clinton, Mo.

Wagner said the Lawrence dealership would continue to offer a line of mowers and other products that appeal to homeowners, but he said the dealership hoped to place a larger emphasis on traditional farm machinery.

“We’re going to re-energize on the ag side,” Wagner said. “Agriculture is still a big part of the economy here. It can easily be overshadowed by the university and the manufacturing, but agriculture has some very deep roots here. There is a lot of good ag ground around Lawrence and Douglas County.”

Wagner said 11 of the 15 employees that Deems had will come to work for Heritage. He said Tim Deneke would transfer from the Baldwin City dealership to serve as the manager for the Lawrence dealership.

Wagner said his company had been in discussions with Deems about buying the dealership for the last six months. He said the John Deere corporation for several years has been encouraging consolidation of its dealer network.

“They got all of us dealers together and said we were either going to have to be buyers or sellers,” Wagner said. “And we decided we wanted to stay in this business.”


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