Wilbur-Ellis brings efficiency to Mott, N.D.: Agribusiness division thriving in community

MOTT -- Spring is a busy time for those involved in agriculture. For Derek Mayer, the branch manager of Wilbur-Ellis in Mott, that is no exception. "One day (last) spring we moved 540 ton (of fertilizer) out in one day," he said. "So one-sixth of...

MOTT - Spring is a busy time for those involved in agriculture.

For Derek Mayer, the branch manager of Wilbur-Ellis in Mott, that is no exception.

“One day (last) spring we moved 540 ton (of fertilizer) out in one day,” he said. “So one-sixth of what we held went out the door. That was our best day that we had. ”

Prior to Wilbur-Ellis buying out Mott Grain in November 2012, that wouldn’t have been a possibility he said.

“I thought about that afterwards and there was no way we could have done that in the past,” Mayer noted.


Mott Grain, a local company, handed over ownership to Wilbur-Ellis, a 95-year-old California-based business that specializes in chemical, fertilizer and seed. Anne Cleary, Wilbur-Ellis vice president of human resources, said it was an easy decision.

“We had been doing business with the Mott location as an alliance,” she said. “This alliance arrangement is when we work with a business, typically in an area where we do not have a branch operation, to serve as a dealer to sell our products to local growers. The Mott alliance was a very strong business and we had a solid relationship with them and confidence (in) their ability to serve their customers.”

Wilbur-Ellis has three branches within its company.

The first is the agribusiness division, which the Mott location falls into, that specializes in soil analysis, water management, nutrition, pest diagnosis, yield monitoring and environmental issues.

The second is the Connell Brothers division, which markets ingredients to the Asian Pacific for items like food, plastics and personal care. The last division is the feed division that provides ingredients for the livestock industry, pet food industry and fish food industry.

Mayer said when the acquisition happened in 2012, some people were questioning what that meant for them to move from a local company to a national company that does business worldwide.

“The growers were pretty open to it, but we had a few growers that were questioning it or wondering what was going to happen. But a lot of what’s happened is that we’re still the same people working here,” he said. “We have to make a living here, so I think that helped knowing that they didn’t bring in strangers do run the business.”

Mayer, a native to the area, may have had the biggest adjustment to make than his seven other employees, as he took on a larger role at Wilbur-Ellis than he had at Mott Grain.


“I have more responsibilities here” he said talking about Wilbur-Ellis. “Over there (Mott Grain) I was kind of maybe like a sales manager, but the owner gave me a price on what to sell stuff at … now here I have to determine what the prices are going to be and manage, stay on top of inventory more. I did some of that over there but not like I do now.”

The Wilbur-Ellis location is across the street from where Mayer used to work at Mott Grain.

When the company was bought out, the owner decided to keep the location, which meant Wilbur-Ellis had to build a new facility. The 3,000 ton fertilizer plant gave the company the ability to expand and double its fertilizer capacity. It also has given it the ability to be efficient with moving product.

“It’s made our lives easier here because it doesn’t take the time it use to and it’s also helped the growers,” he said. “They can come in, 15 or 20 minutes and they are ready to go. They aren’t having to wait an hour.”

Mayer said they are also able to hold more product for the farmers in the new location that holds three times what Mott Grain could hold.

“There were times over there that we ran out of product,” he said. “We’d have a big day of moving stuff out and we’d run out of product.”

While Mayer said they never ran out of product at the new warehouse, there had been days where it was close.

“We never ran out, but we were scraping the walls for the next truck,” he said.


And a service they can offer now with more planes than before is aerial applications.

Mayer said the company has 55 to 60 planes, but his pilot is originally from Mott. The pilot, who owned his own aerial spraying business, now is part of Wilbur-Ellis.

He is one of many people, Mayer said, that are selling their independent businesses to larger companies because they are “looking for a way out.” Mayer said the pilot, who only wanted to fly, had too much to worry about with plane upkeep and oil prices to fully enjoy it.

For Mayer, the transition has been a good one because of the efficiency he can now offer his customers.

“It’s been a huge asset to us, the growers and the community because it went from what took us hours to minutes really,” he said.

And like the old saying goes, time is money.

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