As the owner of Adams Fertilizer Equipment in DeWitt, Billy Claude Adams would tell you there is no real secret behind his company’s success.
The formula is pretty simple, says Adams, who purchased the business “when it was barely hanging on” in 1975.
“I would have to say the big thing to our growth is treating people right,” Adams says. “It’s offering good service and good quality equipment, keeping your word and doing the right thing for people.
“You know, people do business with people. If you treat people right in whatever you’re doing, you will usually do all right.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that the type of business Adams decided to own – manufacturing and sales of fertilizer and chemical equipment – was on the cusp of vast development. The company began in 1966, and had just one production line of fertilizer spreaders when Adams purchased it nine years later. It now produces just about any kind of machinery used in the agriculture, poultry and turf industries.
“It was very small when I bought it,” Adams says. “It had about six or seven employees in one little building. We started with just one little piece of equipment, making about 30 of them a year, to now the place covers 35 acres and 300,000 square feet under roof, with 239 employees
“It’s just been moving forward with help from lots of other people.”
Significant for Arkansas
Adams Fertilizer Equipment is one of many businesses that are part of the agribusiness industry in Arkansas. And the scope of the sector is wide-ranging and far-reaching, according to Zach Taylor of the Arkansas Agriculture Department.
“The definition of agribusiness is being in a business that feeds or clothes people, and all those businesses that are related to that,” says Taylor, director of marketing for the department. “Agriculture is worth about $17 billion, and that’s value added to the state economy. That’s significant for Arkansas.”
It’s also telling that the state’s top three employers – Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Tyson Foods Inc. and J.B. Hunt Transportation Services Inc.– are within the agribusiness sector. Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., the nation’s second-largest poultry company, and Georgia-Pacific Corp. are also among Arkansas’s top 30 employers.
“About one out of every six jobs in Arkansas is in the agriculture sector,” Taylor says. “And during the downturn in the economy a few years ago, agriculture actually added jobs while manufacturing and other industries did not.”
The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture is doing its part to prepare students for careers in agribusiness. The Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field, focusing on “the production and distribution of agricultural products, the use of natural resources and the needs of rural people,” according to the program’s overview.
Some of those graduates could end up at Adams Fertilizer Equipment, which has customers throughout the country as well as some in Canada, South America and Mexico. It sells mostly to large operations, producing equipment for material handling, mixing and application.
Adams’ impact on the local economy is far and wide, according to its owner.
“We have a very large payroll, the largest in this community,” Adams says. “We hire people from this county and town, and some from 50 miles away and farther.
“We obviously purchase a lot of material, and we buy as much as we can in Arkansas. We buy worlds of steel, bearings, hydraulic components, and lots of those come from Arkansas. We’re the largest customer for the local petroleum company with all the service trucks we have, company vehicles, numerous forklifts and tractors.
“This company puts a lot of money back into the state.”