Rick Tromble is a busy man. He runs a 700-acre cattle and farming operation near Cheboygan, Mich.
He sends a semi-trailer of hay to supply Florida feed dealers and his wife’s equestrian stables in Englewood every other week. And now he’s branching into ag and construction equipment sales.
Tromble recently opened SWFL Tractor, a New Holland dealership on a 1.5-acre plot overlooking Interstate-75 in Sarasota, Fla.
There had been two New Holland dealerships in the area during the real estate boom - one that sold agricultural machines in Tampa and another that sold construction equipment in Sarasota. Both collapsed during the Great Recession and no one picked up the franchises until Tromble expressed an interest.
“At one point, they employed 400 people in rental, sales, service and in the parts department,” said Pete Lutjens, who used to work for the Sarasota operation and was hired on as sales manager when Tromble entered the picture.
So far, Tromble only has six people on the payroll. But he said that number could ramp up quickly. There’s still a lot of New Holland equipment in the area and demand for spare parts and filters is bound to make the cash register ring.
He is also looking for a site along I-4 in Plant City to service strawberry farmers in that area.
In addition to New Holland tractors, balers, skid steers and track loaders, the dealership plans to sell trailers manufactured by Load Trail and mowers made by Country Clipper.
“The biggest competitor is John Deere,” said Dan Ross, Tromble’s business partner and the dealership manager. “They’re all over the place. They have seven locations.”
On Tromble's Michigan farm, he operates 10 tractors and four hay balers and all but two of those machines were made by New Holland.
In Florida, he operates a New Holland tractor and skid steer. But finding parts has been difficult.
The nearest dealership is in Fort Myers and it specializes in Kubota machines.
So Tromble contacted New Holland and asked Bill Rex and Elliot Rose of Coldwell Banker Commercial to help him find a site with good visibility from I-75.
“What Rick was looking for wasn’t available,” Rose said. “So we had to research property owners and see whether any would be willing to sell.”
Fortunately, Robert Price was willing to negotiate.
For $1 million, he happily vacated a 10,000-square-foot warehouse with service bays overlooking I-75.
From there, Tromble expects to serve the region from Tampa down to Fort Myers and on out to Arcadia and Wauchula.