Serving the community since 1946, Valley Tractor and Rentals has supplied orchards, industrial centers, home owners, and weekend farmers not only with tractor supplies, but also a commitment to service after the sale.
It’s been a long ride for the owners and clients of Valley Tractor, as well as the agricultural industry itself, and over the years all three have seen some changes. The only thing to remain relatively constant, besides the dependable service at Valley Tractor, is the employee base. Of the current 26 full-time employees at Valley Tractor, 13 have been with the company 20 or more years.
Beginning as a division for Jim Uecker and Uecker Brothers Motors in Cashmere in 1946, Bill Nelson moved his store two years later to the corner of Miller Street and Wenatchee Avenue. Since then, the company has moved around a bit, settling down in 1995 where they currently reside in the Baker Flats Industrial Park of East Wenatchee.
And just like the location, the management has shifted around over the years.
In 1974, at the age of 22, Bill’s son Brian Nelson took a management position with Valley Tractor. At the same time, and to this day, Brian was heavily involved with property development including 600-plus residential lots, Eagle Rock, and Baker Flats Industrial Park which was co-customized to host Valley Tractor itself.
Nelson has never lost sight of his father’s business among his own successes. In 1979, he and his father hired Buell Hawkins onto the team.
Hawkins has made a lot of acquaintances through his rise up in Valley Tractor, and is a well-known figure in the community for his outgoing personality. With an ability to walk around his store, service garage, and equipment lot and introduce everyone by name; it’s easy to see why Hawkins, since 1985, was a great fit as general manager of Valley Tractor.
After many successful years of business, Hawkins is entering a transition period of his own. Finding more time to celebrate the hard work behind him, Hawkins has stepped down from his role of general manager, and taking his place is Dale Hall, a Wenatchee native with a MBA from the University of Texas at Arlington.
Hawkins is still around, and plans to stick it out until his contributions are no longer needed, but he now refers to his title as marketing manager and part-time advisor for Hall. As for his protégé, who’s been at the helm since January 2013, Hawkins is confident in Hall’s abilities to carry the business forward.
“I’m very proud of Dale, the values and judgments he brings to the table at a relatively young age, it fits really well into the business,” Hawkins said. “He embraced our core values, understood the importance of relationships with our customers, and grasped onto it from the beginning. He’s done a great job so far.”
Hall is no stranger to hard work and the agricultural business. A Wenatchee High School graduate, he moved back to the Wenatchee Valley in 2009 where he received a job as production supervisor with Con Agra. After one year, Hall moved to Tree Top in a similar position. And in the fall of 2011, he was approached by Valley Tractor for the position he currently fills.
“My wife and I are from around here, so our goal was to eventually merge into a more local business. The big companies were great working experiences, but my objective was to stay in the Valley, but be able to grow within the Valley as well.” Hall said.
And as for the role he has stepped into, and the man who set the bar high before him, Hall has nothing but praise.
“Buell is an exceptional individual and I couldn’t ask for a better mentor. I learned quickly that I won’t be able to fill his shoes, he is one of a kind. But I must do my best to represent and preserve the culture he has built for Valley Tractor.”
The culture Hall speaks of, and the culture synonymous with Valley Tractor, is what has enabled the business to stay open for so long. Offering tractor lines from Kubota and other agricultural equipment from Stihl, Toro, and Woods; Valley Tractor provides much more than just a product. It’s the service after the sale, the friendships made along the way, and the integrity of long-lasting relationships that set the tone for success.
“The fruit and agricultural industries are consolidating, technology and equipment is evolving, our market mix fluctuates. As a one-store dealer we have to continue to grow and adapt to our market and customers’ needs. Everything changes and that is why it is so important for the culture to stay the same,” he said.
And whether it’s Hall, Hawkins, or Nelson, all three agree that their jobs were not done alone. Valley Tractor is staffed with dedicated employees.
“I have such an experienced and hardworking group around me that it makes my job much easier, as well as a great customer base to work with as long as we keep doing things right,” Hall said. “I am very fortunate to have been set up for success by a Valley Tractor team that is committed to being the best, not the biggest.”
Hawkins said in 2009, during the Great Recession, Valley Tractor was looking at low numbers for the year. After making all the cost savings they could find, it appeared as if Valley Tractor was going to have to cut five to six of their newer employees. That’s when the management team came up with a plan.
Instead of letting five to six people go, every employee took a pay cut. And with the promise of that money back if the company made a profit, plus interest, the employees suddenly found more incentive to excel. Armed with a success-sharing empowerment, the employees at Valley Tractor exceeded expectations, everyone kept their jobs, and they continued to succeed through the equally challenging year of 2010.
Valley Tractor’s customers very much appreciate the service they receive from those employees.
“The employees and the ownership, we’ve been really comfortable with them. They’ve been honest and fair, whenever we’ve needed them before and after the sale, they’ve taken care of us,” said Tom McDevitt, a second generation farmer at McDevitt Orchards in Leavenworth. He and his father have been customers of Valley Tractor since Bill opened the store in Cashmere in 1946.
“It’s a well-run company and the service department is real accommodating. The friendships I’ve developed have been great, and I think everyone who does business with them feels the same way.”