Kubota and Great Plains got married. The engagement was announced in May: Kubota would buy Great Plains Manufacturing, which builds innovative tillage tools, seeding equipment and implements for use on the farm. The union became official on July 1, when all the paperwork cleared the lawyers and bankers, and Kubota's offer to buy was consummated. Great Plains is now part of the Kubota family.
Last week in Kansas City I attended the Great Plain's annual dealer meeting where the new in-laws met in public for the first time. As is protocol at such first time get-togethers, both partners declared their love and told relatives their plans for the future. Speakers reassured Great Plains dealers that being part of a new family was a positive thing, and that the company based in Salina, Kansas, would be a nearly independent part of the larger Kubota family, based in Osaka, Japan.
First up at the podium was Linda Salem, president of Great Plains. She pointed out to dealers that this year is the 40th anniversary of the company and that she and founder Roy Applequist would remain part of the Great Plains family to help maintain its traditions. She told dealers that Kubota's acquisition of the company would not disrupt the strong ties they had built with Great Plains over the years.
"Great Plains is still Great Plains," Salem said. "We are still the same company with the same mission statement, the same roots we have always had. And we have a commitment to stay that way."
In any business change, there is anxiety. "I know you have a lot of questions about the change in ownership," Salem told the dealers. But they would get answers in closed-door sessions about what the ownership change means to them. Again, she assured them: Great Plains has the "same commitment to the dealer network" it always has had.
The relationship between Great Plains and Kubota is not a new one. The two had been "dating" for more than 10 years. Kubota and Land Pride (a Great Plains division specializing in small equipment and implements) have had a marketing alliance since the mid-2000s. It gave Kubota dealers easy access to the Land Pride line. More recently, Land Pride has built buckets for Kubota front loaders.
Masato Yoshikawa, president & CEO of Kubota Tractor Corporation, represented the Kubota side of the new family at the meeting. He told the audience that the decade-old marketing alliance had created "a strong relationship and sense of trust between our companies."
For those who worried that Kubota would merely absorb Great Plains, Yoshikawa said, "Great Plains division will continue to operate its business as it did prior to this acquisition." There will be no change for dealers and customers; Great Plains branding and product support will continue as before.
To emphasize that point, Todd Stucke, senior vice president for Kubota said, "Our intent is not to change Great Plains; we have no desire to change all the good things that were done in the past."
Then it was off to the dance floor…in this case a convention center hall decorated in new products Great Plains is offering to its dealers.
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