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Published August 18, 2014, 09:18 AM

Worthington Ag Parts celebrates 50 years

Worthington Ag Parts has put the name Worthington on the world map. The agricultural tractor salvage business celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

WORTHINGTON, Minn. — Worthington Ag Parts has put the name Worthington on the world map. The agricultural tractor salvage business celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Mike Winter, president of the parent company Worthington Tractor Parts Inc., based in Sioux Falls, S.D., led a celebration of the half-century milestone at the flagship store in Worthington on Aug. 15. The event included many people who were instrumental in the company’s start.

Worthington Ag Parts was one of the pioneers and remains one of the dominant players in a business that buys and dismantles equipment obtained at auction and from insurance companies and individuals. The parent company operates in a much larger worldwide network today, but Worthington Ag Parts annually buys $4 million in used ag equipment.

The Worthington store remains a focal point.

“We have customers in 30 to 40 states who will drive to Worthington to pick up parts,” Winter says. “For some, it’s kind of like a summer vacation: It’s like, ‘Let’s go to Worthington — drive there and pick up parts.’”

One man’s vision

It was 1964 when David A. Dyke started the company that is known today as Worthington Ag Parts.

Dyke was born in Iowa, and his family moved to farm near Raymond, S.D., where he graduated high school. While still in high school, Dyke’s father bought and sold a few tractors and Dyke thought of making a business selling parts. Dyke earned a degree in 1962 from the University of Minnesota and —after a two-year hitch in the Army — he moved his family to Worthington, where he started what was then known as Worthington Tractor Salvage. It grew to seven stores.

“Dave Dyke had a passion for tractors and thought there was a business opportunity in selling used parts,” Winter says. “He invested a little money and a lot of time into the business and grew it into the largest of its kind in the nation. No one before him looked at it as a full-time investment.”

In 1986, Dyke and partner Al Renstrom sold the business to Churchill Industries, a Minneapolis holding company headed by John J. Fauth IV. Fauth is a Long Island, N.Y., native and former Citicorp executive who founded Churchill Cos. in 1981.

Churchill renamed the business Worthington Ag Parts and hired Mike Dudley, a beverage company executive, to run it. In 1988, Dudley moved the company headquarters to St. Charles, Mo., to be centrally located.

Under Dudley, the company grew. In 1994, Churchill acquired Rempel Tractor Parts of Niverville, Manitoba, near Winnipeg. In 1995, the company acquired Neil’s Parts — the largest after-market and used ag machinery parts distributer in Australia. The company had four stores and had been a customer of Worthington Ag Parts. Neil’s had built an expansive marketing network of 1,500 dealers, many machinery repair shops.

Dudley left the company in 1998, and in 1999 Churchill moved the headquarters to Maple Grove, Minn., closer to Fauth and its owners. After two other presidents, Winter was named president in 2002.

World footprint

Winter, 48, has been at the helm for more than a decade and has been with the company for 25 years.

Winter graduated high school in Worthington in 1983. The son of a bricklayer and a production line worker at Campbell Soup Co., Winter obtained an accounting degree at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall and started his accounting career as an auditor for cooperative elevators.

His wife, Karen, is the Worthington Ag Parts human resources manager.

Under Winter’s leadership, Worthington Tractor Parts sold the Canadian subsidiary. It added two locations in Australia, started Parts Express Co. and Capello Implements and added a bonded warehouse in Germany. Capello Implements distributes Italian-made Capello corn heads in the U.S.

Parts Express is an after-market wholesale distribution company that works in domestic, international and export markets.

“We get after-market new parts manufactured all over the world,” Winter says. “We are in the process of developing a dealer network in the U.S.”

Winter also led the building of a 45,000-square-foot world headquarters in Sioux Falls. The location made sense from many standpoints, Winter says.

“It had good interstate highway connections,” he says. “It was close to our largest facility at Worthington and Watertown, S.D. The Sioux Falls Development Foundation was instrumental. We bought land from them at a very competitive price and they were very conducive to welcoming us to Sioux Falls.”

The city also had an economic environment favorable for recruiting ag-related staff.

Capello and corn

The development of Capello Implements made a big difference for Worthington Tractor Parts.

“Capello brought us into a whole new market, a new price point and customers for us,” Winter says. “It adds new customers to grow our business, but we can support them with our core business, which is parts replacement.”

After three years in the corn head business, Winter says the company is “still the new kid on the block,” but notes that volume numbers have doubled annually.

Capello is the Original Equipment Manufacturer (O.E.M.) for Claas, the German ag equipment powerhouse manufacturer, and for Lexion brand corn heads for Claas of America.

Capello heads are known for a patented chopping system that processes an entire plant with the action of its knife rollers. This leads to faster biodegradation of the stalk, helping release nitrogen stuck in the corn stalks.

“Once Capello met Worthington Ag Parts and saw our distribution network, it was a match made in heaven,” Winter recalls. “We sell all makes, all models, and have an excellent distribution network throughout North America. At the same time, it brought us to a market that we weren’t in — serving a high-end producer who may have equipment that’s under warranty, but may be to a dealer that we don’t sell parts to. We offer that user a corn head with Italian craftsmanship, and — we like to say — American grit.”

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