The recession in 2008, subsequent drought and a host of other factors, including bank rejection of restructuring plans, led to Howse Implement Co. ceasing production on Dec. 22, 2106 after 52 years in the business.

The company, based in Laurel, Miss., manufactured over 300 product lines and 2,300 models of equipment, including rotary cutters, disc harrows, grader blades, box blades and post-hole diggers.

After an unsuccessful attempt to sell the business as a going concern, Heritage Global, an affiliate of Heritage Partners, auctioned off the major machines of Howse and its affiliate companies to buyers, including Plainfield Equipment South, in early February. Plainfield Equipment South is a salvage contractor based in Hickory, N.C.

Ben Howse, Howse Implement president, says, “It was a shame to see all that tooling, fixtures and machinery loaded on scrap trucks and hauled to the scrap yards.”

Selling Assets

Scott Mortimer, owner of Plainfield Equipment South, says when they went on site to pick up the equipment, he noticed a large amount of assets still remaining. “We purchased 75% of the machinery in the first auction. When I arrived at the facility, I saw the plant was full of stock and parts. I started speaking with Ben about the possibility of another auction,” Mortimer says. He then contacted Trustmark bank, of Jackson, Miss., which held the assets — and purchased all that remained, including the intellectual property.

“I’m not a manufacturer. A lot of times when we buy at an auction, we’re buying scrap,” Mortimer says. For other equipment that doesn’t go for scrap, he often ‘parts’ it out and works with Yellow Tag Auctions, Spartanburg, S.C., so Mortimer approached them regarding an auction of the Howse assets.

Yellow Tag’s three-day auction is set for March 28-30:

  • March 28 – Intellectual property including trade names (Howse, Agri Motive, KOOLAG, and Agrevere); website and domain names; customer and vendor list; product drawings and bills of material for all product lines and more
    • There is a $5,000 minimum bid on the intellectual property.
  • March 29 – Equipment, parts and accessories, including over $1 million in component inventory
  • March 30 – Rolling stock, equipment and tools

 Bob Ashworth of Yellow Tag Auctions says the company has been reaching out to potential bidders. “We’ve sent over 2,000 postcards to manufacturers and I’ve called 30-40 manufacturers,” he says.

Ashworth says there are a lot of possibilities for the auction. “The sky’s the limit. The buyer could just buy and continue the parts business. Or, someone could buy the name and sell it to someone who would manufacture under the Howse name. I can see where another manufacturer would want to continue with the Howse Implement brand. The name has a strong value,” he says.

The lots are open for viewing and bidding now, but Ashworth says he expects most of the serious bidding to occur right before the auction’s scheduled close. The bidders are only identified by a number during the auction.

“We’re selling the blood, sweat and tears that Ben Howse’s family put into this business, so it’s hard to put a value on the intellectual property. We’re selling a family’s reputation,” Ashworth says.

Impact on the Industry

Ben Howse shares his thoughts on what the company’s shut-down means for the industry, “There’s going to be big hole because most of the parts we sold could interchange with other manufacturer’s products. We were always the low-cost provider and others out there in the marketplace will gain from our demise,” Howse says.

Listen to more comments from Howse about the company as well as the auction:

Insert Ben Howse audio 1

Insert Ben Howse audio 2

Watch the summer issue of Rural Lifestyle Dealer for a feature on Howse Implements, the factors behind its closing, as well as what the new owners of the parts and intellectual property are planning.