Hillsboro Farmers Co-op General Manager Larry Swalheim is delighted with the recent vote of confidence from stockholders who approved a merger with United Cooperative, based in Beaver Dam.
“It means a better future for the Hillsboro cooperative without the loss of a local identity,” he told the Sentry-Enterprise in an exclusive interview.” The same people as before will be here, with local employees.”
According to Swalheim, 631 certified ballots were returned by stockholders out of the 1,600 sent out. The count was 451 in favor and 180 against.
“I respect that people had concerns, but it will prove to be a very favorable thing,” Swalheim added.
United plans to set up training for a whole group of employees and future management. It is in the process of learning all it can about the local business. Management will be visiting with employees all month, finding out about their jobs and their feelings about the merger.
“Many things need to be done between now and Oct. 1 when the merger will become final,” the GM said. “United has been through a lot of this.
“Change is always tough for people, and I respect that, but I feel real good about the result. United is a good organization and will allow the Farmers Co-op to compete on a stronger basis.”
Swalheim operated a Dane County farm for many years and worked with co-ops for 20 years. He eventually became Chief Executive Officer of Landmark Cooperative in Cottage Grove. He retired from Landmark “to produce another chapter in my life, and work on my bucket list, which includes many travels and an interest in international development.”
He sees nothing but good in the Hillsboro merger and stresses the record of growth in United Cooperative. “United has been very profitable,” he said. “Among other developments, they operate three ethanol plants. They’re making money and it goes back to the members, and doesn’t leave the community. It’s a true co-operative in every sense of the word.”
Before leaving for a vacation to visit Rome and the Tuscany area of Italy, he outlined some of the future plans that are on the United drawing board for Hillsboro.
“We’re planning a big customer appreciation sale on Sept. 19 and 20 and rearranging our retail operation including hardware, appliance, heating and plumbing.
“The co-op has four core businesses: Petroleum products, feed, agronomy, and grain. United is here to first take care of all the farmers.”
United Cooperative management was also immediately on board and pleased with the positive outcome of the balloting.
In a press release, the organization’s President and Chief Executive Officer, David Cramer, stated, “We look forward to serving the Hillsboro patron members with assets obtained through the merger, as well as future equipment and facility investments already in the planning stages. We’re also pleased to welcome the Hillsboro Farmers Cooperative employees into the United Cooperative family.
“United Cooperative strives every day to make sure that we have the products and services to meet and exceed the needs of our patron members regardless of the size and scope of their farming operation.
“We look forward to working together with and serving our new Hillsboro area patron members and future patron members.”
Hillsboro Farmers Cooperative is projecting revenues for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013, to be near $60 million.
“Hillsboro has many of the same divisions as United Cooperative, including feed, grain, agronomy, energy, and retail,” added Cramer. “They have locations in Hillsboro, Kendall, Wilton, Yuba, Wonewoc, Ontario, and Cazenovia.”
Formed in 1936, United Cooperative is a full service cooperative with feed, grain, agronomy, fuel, lubricant, and propane locations throughout Wisconsin. They documented $643 million in sales in 2012, up $120 million from 2011 due to strong internal growth and three mergers in Northern Wisconsin.
United employs 650 full-time, part-time, and seasonal Wisconsin residents.
United Cooperative has locations in Auroraville, Baraboo, Beaver Dam, Bonduel, Deerfield, Denmark, Gresham, Hartford, Horicon, Hustisford, Iron Ridge, Johnson Creek, Mayville, Pickett, Poynette, Prairie du Sac, Pulaski, Reedsburg, Ripon, Rock Springs, Sauk City, Shawano, South Beaver Dam, Watertown, and Wyocena.
For more information, visit www.unitedcooperative.com