On May 30, Farm Equipment was in Marysville, Kan., to help celebrate one of the industry’s greatest success stories over the last half-century.

Prior to a community-wide and family-oriented celebration at the Marysville airport later that evening (culminating with dinner, live music and choreographed fireworks), Landoll Corp. Founder Don Landoll hosted a special luncheon to recognize suppliers, lenders, dealers, friends and past presidents and board members of the Farm Equipment Manufacturers Assn. (FEMA) who helped him build his farm equipment manufacturing company just over 50 years ago.

Founder Don Landoll personally led a detailed VIP tour of the Marysville, Kan., facilities on May 30 prior to the larger community celebration. How big the evening party was is not exactly known, but nearly 6,000 hot dogs and brats were served at the event.

Following the meal, he personally led the group on a several hours long tour of the Marysville production facilities.

A true American success story, Landoll Corp. started as a 3-man operation in a 12,500-square-foot shop. Fifty years later, nearly 1,000 employees work in state-of-the-art, 860,000-square-foot facilities, and export products to 39 nations.

A Change of Plans

Landoll, the eldest of 8 children on the Hanover, Kan., farmstead, was destined to be a manufacturer. Encouraged by his parents, his on-farm tinkerings employed electric motors before the farmstead even had electricity to plug them into. By the time he was a sophomore in high school, he owned his own welding equipment and was handling odd jobs for relatives and neighbors on the farm. In fact, he designed and built a farm wagon in his high school vocational ag course.

He planned to gain on-the-job training by enlisting in the U.S. Air Force, and left town within days of his high school graduation, only to fail his physical and return home.

That setback ended up being fortuitous for Landoll, and countless others involved in farm equipment manufacturing and sales.

So Landoll found work at the local International Harvester dealership (Hanover Implement & Manufacturing), where his welding skills were put to use building equipment truck and trailer hoists and playground equipment.

At the dealership, he worked side by side and lunched every day with a 50-year-old welder and World War II veteran. Three years later, Landoll, the youngest of the employees there, was hand-picked to go into business with him. Since Landoll was not yet 21, his partner had to co-sign the loan for him and, together, they launched Quick Service Welding in 1963. “I was willing to learn and he was willing to teach,” says Landoll.

The small operation offered general welding, radiator repair and blacksmith services — instilling the importance of diversification for Landoll in his formative early 20s. When his partner left for the railroad industry 3.5 years later, Landoll bought him out and became sole proprietor.

In 1966, he built stock racks for pickup truck beds, producing the first Landoll-branded item, followed shortly by chisel plows and a liquid supplement feeder for livestock.

From there came OEM work, acquisitions (including Bendi and Drexel forklifts in 1993 and 2003, ICON Construction in 2007 and Brillion Farm Equipment in 2010) and numerous plant expansions. Today, the company has 5 divisions that include farm equipment, construction, forklifts, trailers and OEM/government.

Its farm equipment products include primary tillage, vertical tillage, grain drills, coulter chisels, disc rippers, in-line rippers, field cultivators and seeders.

Best in Technology

Landoll, who knows every one of his production machines inside and out, made a personal pledge to build the most advanced tillage factory in America. His lineup includes 9 plate laser cutters, 4 tube lasers (including the largest on the continent), CNC press brakes, CNC machining center, water-jet cutting table and one of the nation’s first fiber-optic laser cutters. More than 30 robots are located throughout the plant.

One of the things he is most proud of in the company’s history was the entry into new markets during the ag depression of the 1980s. FMC Corp. had seen the high-quality of Landoll’s chisel plows at a dealership, and approached Landoll to see if he’d be interested in building aircraft ground support trailers, which later led to a large contract to manufacture and assemble aircraft de-icers for the U.S. military.

In 1984, Landoll received a $43 million contract (a record contract for a small business) in a very bad farm economy, and the firm has now had military orders for 30 years. “With the big contracts you can justify buying the very best equipment and technology,” he says. “And at the end of the contract, you still have the very best.”

The firm is completing the construction of a new 67,000-square-foot Parts Distribution Center in Marysville.

During the luncheon that kicked off the 50-year celebration, Founder Don Landoll went from table to table recognizing each attendee with a personal story about each company and its history with Landoll Corp.

Relationships First

Landoll’s luncheon remarks reinforced the authenticity of the relationships he’s built. They were the foundations of the business, he says, citing employees, customers, dealers and suppliers of equipment.

Exhibitors at the FEMA meeting each year know that he means it. Among his board meeting responsibilities (he was FEMA president in 1990-91) and other appointments, he always takes the time to personally visit each and every supplier’s booth.

Landoll says many a supplier and fellow manufacturer extended him credit and lent him components and supplies when he needed them. “I was never given anything directly — I always paid 100% — but there were a lot who helped me indirectly,” he says, noting how a lot of great companies have come and gone. “Relationships take years to get and then you stay with them to help you through the peaks and valleys. It’s a must for the long term.”

Community Support

Operating in a town of just 3,100, Landoll says good relationships are paramount. “Everyone I know who has had success in this business have been good community partners,” he says.

Last winter, Landoll recognized 79 employees who’ve been with Landoll for 25 years. He adds there are lots of second-generation employees and husbands/wives who met at the company.

The company is a major supporter of the community, with millions contributed around town, spanning the airport, library reading park, church school and playground, and as well as the largest contributor to the area’s new hospital. Two of the firm’s airplanes are also on call for medical flights.

Diversification, vertical integration, high-dollar/specialized custom products, and strong relationships have been foundations of success, says Landoll. And in his humble manner, he adds that “You have to recognize the opportunities and take advantage of them.”