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The Case-IH dealership along U.S. Highway 281 at Redfield, S.D., has been owned by Titan Machinery of West Fargo, N.D., since 2007. It is among a dozen stores to be shut at the end of March 2017 as part of a company reorganization. Photo taken Feb. 21, 2017, Redfield, S.D. (Forum News Service/Agweek/Mikkel Pates)

Redfield dismayed by Titan store closing

REDFIELD, S.D.—Losing a hometown Titan Machinery store is about convenience but also about taking jobs out of Redfield, S.D., and the one-on-one relationships out of the business of farming.

Ronnie Frericks, 55, farms near Northville, S.D., population 143. The town is about 13 miles north of Redfield, population of nearly 2,500. Redfield and Spink County are vital agricultural cogs in northeast South Dakota.

"You'd like to see some progression, rather than see it regress," says Frericks, who raises corn, soybeans and sometimes wheat. He is a third-generation farmer who receives help from a full-time employee and a relative. He speaks as an individual but also serves on the board of a regional grain cooperative.

"If we have to adapt, we adapt," he says. "But it's the relationships you have when you trust people. It takes awhile to gain that when you go somewhere else."

We adapt

Frerick has been buying equipment at the Redfield store all of his life and has already seen a lot of change. First it was an International Harvester store. Then it was Case-IH when Tenneco Corp. put the two manufacturers together in the mid-1980s. The store was sold to Aberdeen Equipment in 1990. Titan acquired Aberdeen Equipment and the Redfield store in 2007. Employees at the Redfield store declined to be interviewed.

"We've had really great service there," Frerick says. "A lot of good service. Most of all, there's a lot of good people working there. These people are going to be looking for jobs, and when they leave that town, business leaves town. These people are my friends."

People were already smarting from losing Titan stores at Bowdle, S.D., and at Britton, S.D. "When you do that to our small towns, it's hard to keep people living in our small communities," Frericks says. "We need a vibrant community to do business in."

Frericks says if he continues to do business with the Titan group, he'd have to go 40 miles to Aberdeen, S.D., about 60 miles to Miller, S.D., or about 60 miles to Huron, S.D. That's a good hour drive to each one, he says. Or he can go to an independent dealer about 55 miles northeast at Ferney, S.D.

"I see a lot of guys who are probably going to take some business there," Frericks says, noting some farmers will want to support the dealership that is "vital in their small town."

He says he appreciates that Titan Machinery is working to beef up precision farming. He says younger farmers pick up on those tools quickly and "are going to amaze the people at these dealerships."

A done deal

Redfield Mayor Jayme Akin says his many in his town echo Frericks' concerns.

Akin, who has been mayor for nearly six years, is a physical therapist but grew up on a farm near Redfield, where the equipment was Case-IH red. The community has had the Titan dealership and a John Deere dealership, as well as an ethanol plant, two grain elevators, a sunflower processing company and a farm chemical distributor/applicator.

"If those farmers are coming to town two or three times out of a week, or to go to the Titan dealership, what else are they doing?" Akin says of the effect of a store closing. "They're buying a tank of gas. They're maybe eating a meal at Leo's Good Food, or at the La Cabana, a Mexican restaurant."

With the Case-IH dealership gone, he thinks farmers are likely to go instead to Aberdeen, S.D., or Huron, S.D., and will spend more money there.

Akin is concerned about the 13 employees at the dealership. Titan posted job openings in nearby stores and the company encouraged employees to apply for jobs that might start April 1. Some employees may need to work in service truck or other positions for a time, to help through a busy season.

Behind employee numbers are houses and property taxes.

"That's families affected; they go to our public school," he says. "It's a huge impact on the city of Redfield," he says.

This summer, Redfield will start construction on a $23 million K-12 school building to replace a 100-year-old structure.

"When these young people pull out of Redfield because they can't find jobs, there's nobody going to be putting kids into that new school. It affects everything," Frerick says.

Agriculture is big in Spink County, and the loss of a dealership is a chink in the town's economic armor.

When commodity prices went through the roof a few years ago, farmers made some money. But commodity prices have come down while input prices have stayed up.

"It's been tougher the last few years for farmers, definitely," Frericks says.

He says he's appreciated the sales and parts staff at Redfield, where he's been able to get most of the parts he needs. If they don't have it, they can get it in a day or two.

"If not, I can drive," he says. "But it's going to be a different world."

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