Great Plains Celebrates 45 Years of Success

An intense gleam of growth and prosperity is clearly defined at Great Plains Manufacturing, as the huge employer eyes a firmer foothold in Salina and north-central Kansas. The equipment maker turns 45 years old on April 1, and aims to fill escalating needs in the farming, dairy, construction and landscaping industries, feeding markets domestically and abroad.

“There is an amazingly bright future for Great Plains,” said Linda Salem, the company’s CEO and President.

Started with the vision of founder Roy Applequist and the development of a folding box seeding drill in April 1976, the company grew and expanded through several decades until it was sold to Kubota Tractor Corporation in July 2016.

A major global brand, Kubota has sealed its commitment to the north-central Kansas region, encouraging Great Plains Manufacturing to continue to invest millions of dollars in a number of plants in Salina and vicinity.

The company sports a growing and diverse line of innovative products that envelope and embrace huge sectors of industry.

Stealing a line from Chris Lane’s country music hit song Great Plains has “some Big, Big Plans,” with exploding production and jobs in these parts.

“Kubota bought Great Plains to grow it,” said David Disberger, GPM executive vice president.

“Georgia, Kansas City, Texas and Salina are the four strategic growth locations for the company,” he said.

Headquartered at 1525 E. North Street in Salina, Great Plains has agreed to become the North American center for construction equipment manufacturing and the home for the worldwide research and development design center for compact track loaders, (CTLs).

“There will be compact track loaders, and by phase three we’ll be making other construction equipment as well,” Linda Salem said. “We’re moving CTLs from the Asia-Pacific, localizing what was previously produced overseas.” Kubota demand for the CTL to be made in Salina, has exceeded its own original forecast by 25 percent, company officials said, and they’re already in talks about production increases beyond that number.

Great Plains Manufacturing has entered into a contract to purchase a 750,000-square-foot building in Salina — the Signify Building on the south end of town — to house this production.

“This is a company to get behind,” Disberger said, “and it’s family centric with strong values. We respect family values.”

Salem has coached many leaders on those core elements.

“Our employees’ wellbeing is important to us,” she said. “People are the cornerstone of our success and an extension of our family.”

The company is a proud supporter of the local communities it serves, and an ever-expanding list of customers, she added.

However, Great Plains can’t do it alone. The company that has opened markets all over the United States and many spots on the globe, needs people to fill job openings beyond the 1,700 already employed, infrastructure and space to manufacture a growing portfolio of products.

The company desires a partnership with the communities it serves, where leaders are eager to add utilities, education, support housing expansions and prepare to welcome new workers now through 2030. Projections have GPM growing by 450 to 2,110 workers by 2025, with continued growth to 2,310 employees by 2030.

“That may even be low. It’s impressive,” Disberger said.

But planning for this expansion must go beyond the Great Plains conference rooms.

“Our local community leaders don’t yet fully understand our vision,” Disberger said. “Salina needs a call to action. We’ve got to take this growth more seriously, and really focus on housing needs to allow for growth.”

Great Plains endeavors to “be a valuable partner with the communities we work in,” Salem said — Salina, Tipton, Ellsworth, Assaria, Kipp, Abilene and Enterprise.

“We need to let people know that if you’re looking for a job, and many will be available at all levels, these towns can be your home,” Disberger said.

Great Plains/Kubota’s future is hinged to “a well-balanced, diversified business model built on different industries with expectations of withstanding market cycles,” Salem said.

For example, Land Pride’s continuous growth, albeit with seasonal flows have fit nicely with Great Plains Ag Division’s seasonal flows. Counterbalances are built in.

Each division has its product strengths and there are new product lines being added in each.

Great Plains Ag continues to manufacture implements for seed placements (drills and planters) and seedbed preparation and soil management. Now the Ag Division is into hay and forage products, such as round balers.

Land Pride persists in expanding attachments aligned with Kubota tractors and construction machines.

The company pursues “innovative products that exceeds the needs and expectations of customers,” Disberger said.

The Land Pride division projects another record-breaking year in revenues. Great Plains Ag has escalating revenue levels as well. Historically, when one division slows, another picks up slack, Salem said, and thanks to the added product balance of power construction equipment, expectations for stable overall business are high.

Great Plains Manufacturing is committed to investing millions of dollars into remodeling and adding on to its regional facilities and equipment.

An average investment per year for the past few years exceeds $14 million in the plants outside of Salina and $9 million within Salina, not including the new construction equipment building, where plans are immense. But there are challenges.

“Success will be very dependent on attracting workers to our company and to our communities,” Salem said. “With the community working together with industry right here in the nation’s midsection, big goals will come to fruition, and the next 45 years will be as successful as the first.”