Good times persist for Land Pride trailblazers

Land Pride prospered during another year riddled with difficulties, thanks to being positioned to help customers.

The Great Plains Manufacturing division specializing in dirt work, turf maintenance, material handling, landscaping and construction equipment, really delivered in 2021.

It was both in spite of and because of the pandemic and other tragedies troubling this world.

Weather and health disasters cover the majority of issues that upped demand of Land Pride products—both new ones and longtime market mainstays.

“Despite all of those different challenges, we had double digit growth each year,” said Mark Decker, Land Pride president, referring to the past two years.

Land Pride is eyeing expansion as the Kubota-owned company persists in adding products to its line, and fresh innovations that will make lives easier.

Throughout Great Plains Manufacturing, there were more than 1,900 workers employed at the end of 2021, after a manufacturing employee growth that eclipsed 26% from 2020, said Dee Warren, marketing manager. The company was actively recruiting for more than 100 positions, with more hiring expected.

All of that despite “a lot of headwinds” last year, he said.

Customers dotting the nation and globe were saddled with hurricanes, tornadoes—bitter winters, the worst of it a polar vortex in early 2021—massive windstorms and even some earthquakes “that mostly make folks uneasy,” Decker said.

Climate change was blamed for the exacerbation, but Land Pride was prepared and well-stocked.

“We have a lot of products to help with cleanup,” he said.

From head offices in Salina throughout Land Pride’s engineering and manufacturing sections, to a plethora of sales experts across the United States, filling necessities has been good for both consumers and the company.

This year is showing similar promise as Land Pride gears up for major growth and product advancement.

Demand was created by the pandemic, which boosted landowner and construction equipment sales.

Despite some downsides, Land Pride prospered, thanks in large part to blessings from a “strong dealer network" across the U.S., Decker said.

Land Pride has seen “a huge increase in sales since the pandemic hit,” said Jeff Welsh, the division’s engineering manager.

“A lot of folks are staying home. Lifestyles are changing. There is more interest in landscaping and gardening,” he said. “It matched up to us perfectly. Even though we had those weather events and supply issues, we’re still building and developing new products and improving existing ones. We’re not pumping the brakes.”

Another strong advancement was stretching the company’s offerings in construction equipment. More specifically, Land Pride eased into it over the past five years.

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“In 2007, we started focusing our new product development more toward attachments for skid steers and excavators,” he said.

Also that year, Land Pride and GPM launched a marketing agreement with Kubota, Decker said, and allowed customers to finance equipment purchases through Kubota Credit Corp.

It marked the beginning of a happy marriage with the Japanese company, that purchased Great Plains in 2016.

“It was controlled growth through the dating period,” Decker said. “Then it just exploded. Overnight, we added 300 dealers.”

Sales are enhanced by 1,250 Kubota dealers in North America, 1,100 in the U.S. and 150 in Canada.

The company “grew up on” equipment such as, rotary tillers, rotary cutters, grooming mowers, rear blades and box blades, Warren said. They are among some 650 products built for either Land Pride or Kubota.

“A big increase in production occurred when Land Pride started building skid steer and excavator buckets for Kubota,” Welsh explained. “Now those buckets, and other products, are designed to specifically match Kubota power units. This provides the highest performance for our customers.”

A huge source of local pride is the Stand-on Compact Loader, a miniature skid steer dubbed SCL for short, that’s manufactured at Land Pride’s Abilene West plant.

“Up until SCL’s debut, all of Kubota’s power units were designed in Japan,” Welsh said. “Kubota felt a need for the SCL in the United States, and the Japanese design team reached out to us to develop it in Salina. It was a good opportunity for Land Pride as the SCL was 100% designed locally.”

SCL has snared six industrial awards over the past 18 months—mid-2020 through 2021. The SCL Team was also recognized with Kubota’s Excellent Performance Award for their work on the loader.

“It’s a well-developed machine. The design team worked hard to put out a quality, robust product that Kubota customers will enjoy. We’ve filed for many patents on the SCL,” Welsh said.

Land Pride has since been tagged to develop other products, Decker said.

“We’re going to need more mechanical engineers, manufacturing engineers, construction scientists, more of those types of people,” he said.

Innovation can come from anyone with a good idea, he said, but the majority of new product ideas are gleaned from Land Pride’s sales and marketing group.

“They tell us what the market needs and we try to design something that’s better than our competitors,” Welsh said.

When Great Plains was founded on April 1, 1976, a common practice was to speak directly to farmers about what they needed from manufacturers.

“Kubota’s plan is similar to ours,” Welsh said. “Kubota puts a lot of effort into getting the voice of the customer and invited engineering to be part of that.”

Nothing has changed in that regard, Decker said, regarding a direct conduit of information that runs both ways.

Up and down the chain, company team members answer calls, texts and emails and react to market pulses.

“We do have good communication with the end user,” he said. “We haven’t changed all that much. We have the same culture, the same focus.”

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