Barry Grossenburg said he's always wanted to construct a new building.
He will soon be able to check that off his "bucket list." But it won’t be exactly according to plan.
Grossenburg is a co-owner of Winner, S.D.-based Grossenburg Implement. The firm owns 7 John Deere dealerships, with 4 in Northeast Nebraska: Laurel, Hartington, Bloomfield and Wayne.
It's the latter dealership that hit the national headlines October 4 when a tornado ripped through the eastern section of Wayne. The dealership was among the businesses suffering the most significant losses.
Grossenburg said the damage to the equipment at Grossenburg Implement was "a shade over $10 million," with about another $6 million for "everything else," including the buildings.
But Grossenburg said he is extremely thankful that no one at the firm — nor anyone else in the Wayne community — was killed.
Grossenburg said 22 of the 35 employees of the Wayne dealership were on site when the tornado struck about 5:30 p.m. Only a few minor injuries were reported as employees scrambled to seek shelter.
Grossenburg, who had been at the Wayne dealership that morning, was back home in Winner when he received an email from son Charlie at 6 p.m. that a tornado had devastated a portion of Wayne.
Barry, Charlie and Barry’s son-in-law, Adam Severson of Wayne, are co-owners of Grossenburg Implement.
Grossenburg said he and his son drove from Winner to Wayne yet that night, arriving about 10.
But because of natural gas leaks from the damaged buildings in the storm’s path, he said they weren’t able to enter onto the Grossenburg Implement property until 10 a.m. the next day.
Grossenburg said his first reaction was "I couldn’t believe it. Holy smokes alive. Every vehicle (including employees' personal vehicles) and every truck we had was totaled. The (main) building was three-fourths gone. There wasn’t much good of anything."
While hundreds of volunteers have converged in eastern Wayne along Highway 35 and to affected farms south of the city to assist with cleanup efforts, Grossenburg said, "We couldn’t use any volunteer workers because (our site) was so dangerous."
The Grossenburg buildings and debris have now been cleaned up by professionals, he said. Removal of the concrete began Wednesday and was expected to be completed Thursday.
Some of the firm's operations have been temporarily relocated to a building three blocks to the north at 803 Providence Road.
On Monday, some of the firm's mechanics will begin working from a new 50-foot by 90-foot prefabricated building on the original site, Grossenburg said. Other mechanics will be housed at two rented rural sites, he said.
Other new buildings will be constructed at the original site, all in their former locations, but larger. "We will be bigger and better," he said of the buildings, as well as the general business.
The main building will be 240 feet by 160 feet, compared to the previous building that measured 100 feet by 300 feet. The new geothermal building will feature overhead cranes.
Another new building will measure 100 feet by 160, with the hot steam room to be 60 feet by 80 feet.
Grossenburg Implement, he said, "loves to hire local subcontractors," and is currently looking for firms to fill those needs. The general contractor is Keihm Construction of Lakeview, Minn., which has constructed 10 similar buildings for John Deere dealerships.
"In seven months, we hope to be in all of the new buildings," Grossenburg said. "It will really be a modern implement business."
Grossenburg said an auction would be conducted in three weeks to sell all of the damaged equipment.
He said the Wayne dealership's 35 employees are "all working, and all will continue to work. We have insurance to help us through this time, so there will be no layoffs.
"The employees have done one heck of a great job" in the transition process, Grossenburg said. "I'm so proud of them."
Grossenburg also paid tribute to the city of Wayne administration and countless others who have assisted in various ways, including providing food.
Grossenburg Implement acquired the four Northeast Nebraska John Deere dealerships in early 2012. "It's only been 18 months since we've been down in Wayne," he said. "It's a great city."
Grossenburg Implement has been in the Grossenburg family since 1937, with Barry Grossenburg representing the third generation of his family to be involved with the firm.
With agricultural machinery and equipment continuing to evolve to larger dimensions, Grossenburg said current facilities often cannot accommodate them.
"We needed taller, bigger, wider buildings," he said. "Now we'll get to build the biggest. It will be fun. It will be outstanding."
Of the tornado devastation, Grossenburg said he sees the silver lining. "This is just a hiccup," he said.
"It's really a blessing. We're tickled that everybody turned out fine. Money will fix this problem."
What money can't fix, he said, are the deaths of employees. "When you bury a guy, it's tough," he said.
Grossenburg said his firm has lost two employees; both in truck-related accidents dating to 1982 and 2009.