Aimtrac's Brooklet store, which is really in the Denmark community on Georgia Highway 67, sells big machines priced in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to farmers and even to kaolin mining companies across a large swath of eastern and central Georgia.
The region's Case IH dealer, now in its fifth year in business, has also contributed to a resurgence of red paint in the fields. As one of the first four locations of the Cordele-based Aimtrac company, the local store has exceeded the company's sales expectations.
"We're doing substantially better than we anticipated due to, I guess, the need for another dealership in the area," said Aimtrac Brooklet sales manager Rawls Neville.
He also credits Aimtrac's marketing stance and the range and quality of products from the manufacturer.
"They've been very aggressive in the marketplace," Neville said. "The equipment is great, the availability is good, and our market share is substantially higher than what they expected in a five-year run."
When the Brooklet location held its grand opening in October 2010, it became the only Case IH tractor and farm machinery dealership in the area, since the long-established Joiner International in Statesboro had closed several years earlier.
With the introduction of its next-generation Magnum series tractors, Case IH sought to rebuild its customer base throughout the Southeast, Neville said. Two established, independent dealerships in southwestern Georgia, Pinehurst Equipment in Pinehurst and Fox International in Americus rose to the challenge by merging in June 2010 to form Agricultural Implement Machinery and Tractor Company, or AIMTRAC.
The company planted its headquarters in Cordele, between the original Americus and Pinehurst locations, and soon built new dealerships at Camilla and Brooklet. In December 2014, the dealership opened its fifth store, at Tifton.
Now, of 10 Case IH dealers in Georgia identified on the manufacturer's corporate website, www.caseih.com, half are Aimtrac locations.
Case IH itself was born in 1985 through the merger of two historic farm equipment manufacturers, J.I. Case and International Harvester. Through the International side, Case IH has historic brands such as McCormick harvesters and Farmall tractors in its lineage. Since that merger, the corporation has merged again, so that it's now under the same ownership as the New Holland brand and part of Fiat Industrial Group.
The Brooklet Aimtrac location sells and services new and used tractors, harvesters, sprayers and so forth. It also sells - usually by placing farmers' orders with the manufacturer and then doing setup and delivery - several non-Case IH brands of equipment. For example, it takes orders for three makes of peanut pickers, since these are manufactured by neither Case IH nor its major competitor, John Deere.
The Aimtrac store also carries Grasshopper lawnmowers to carry on a tradition of Statesboro-area dealers selling lawnmowers, Neville said.
In tractors, the dealership offers "anywhere from 30 horsepower all the way to 620 horsepower," Neville said, "and Case offers the largest horsepower in the marketplace today."
Into the mines
Some of the most powerful tractors Aimtrac sells are those in Case IH's Steiger Quadtrac line, which have four separate sets of bulldozer-like, but rubberized, tracks instead of tires. These are a big seller to mining and construction customers.
"When we came here we were focused on agriculture, and still are focused on ag and ag will be our focus right on," Neville said. "Ag is what we were built for, but we have got a huge market that has opened up in construction and mining."
Georgia's kaolin mines, digging the white clay often used in making glossy paper, were already buying high-horsepower, often tracked Case IH tractors. Sometimes the kaolin companies ordered these from dealerships as far away as Illinois or Indiana, until Aimtrac arrived on the scene.
In the past year, Neville has sold probably 25 of the Quadtrac machines, he said.
Farmers buy a few, but most go to mine operations in the Kaolin Belt, which stretches from Aiken, South Carolina, through Louisville and Wrens southwestward along the Fall Line.
Farming still first
But the recently arrived, 2015-model tractors lined up on the lot Saturday were all for delivery to farmers, who are buying or leasing them. The dealership's most popular farm tractors are four-wheel-drive models, with regular tires, in the 290-340 hp range.
Harvesters - cotton pickers and grain combines - are the dealership's biggest-ticket farm machines. One year ago, Neville was informed by Case IH that the location had achieved the largest market share for combines in the nation.
As he explains, dealers in the Midwestern Grain Belt sold more combines, but his dealership sold by far the largest percentage of the relatively few sold here.
The dealership's market area isn't just Bulloch County, but stretches from the Savannah River to Dublin.
When Neville joined the dealership, before its grand opening in October 2010, it had seven employees, he said. Today, it has about 22.
The operations manager is Jason Benton, who came to the company with about 20 years experience in sales and service, mainly handling industrial equipment such as backhoes and bulldozers, for a competitor. Before joining the company, Neville, who has a Georgia Southern University business degree, had farmed full-time for 18 years with Statesboro-based Four Corners Farms.
The dealership employs six service technicians in its shop and also has three full-time road techs, who travel to service equipment in the field. It also has its own Advanced Farming Systems specialist for service and setup of satellite-oriented precision guidance, now almost a standard component of tractors and other farm machines.
The dealership is active in the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce and helps sponsor programs for young people in agriculture, such as those of the Young Farmers and FFA.
"We just try to do a lot of local interaction, whatever we can do to help the community, because we know how much they help us," Neville said.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.