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Published January 04, 2013, 08:36 AM

RRV: John Deere invests millions to expand production in ND

Company finishes $22 million expansion in Fargo, begins $20 million project in Valley City

By: Kris Bevill, Prairie Business Magazine

Increasing agricultural demands worldwide have led to expansion projects at John Deere Co. facilities in Fargo and Valley City, N.D., where workers are churning out a variety of components and products to meet the company’s clients’ needs.

John Deere Electronic Solutions held an inauguration event Oct. 9 to celebrate the company’s new $22 million, 90,000-square-foot building in north Fargo. The facility has some manufacturing capabilities but will primarily be used for engineering and product development and testing, according to Tom Budan, general manager of JDES.

JDES, which was established in 1987 as Phoenix International and purchased by John Deere in 1999, develops electronic components and systems used in John Deere equipment. The company has been expanding its presence in Fargo over the past several years and had outgrown its other facilities, Budan says. The new location allows the company to bring together some of the workers who had previously been scattered throughout the Fargo metro area in various locations. “[It] has allowed us to really consolidate some of our operations around the Fargo-Moorhead area,” Budan says, adding that he expects relocation and reorganization activities to continue at the new facility throughout 2013.

Currently, JDES employs approximately 1,000 people at six locations in Fargo. The new facility offers the capacity to accommodate further growth, but Budan says product demand from John Deere’s worldwide customer base will dictate future expansions. Some demand growth is expected to continue domestically, but the bulk of the company’s increasing demand will likely come from emerging markets overseas. “As those markets continue to grow, Deere is going to do everything we can to serve those markets,” Budan says. “Our equipment demands advanced electronics to make it productive and capable and that’s where John Deere Electronic Solutions comes in. If it’s a John Deere product, regardless of where it’s made, there’s a good chance it has a component in it that John Deere Electronic Solutions played a role in.”

On Nov. 27, John Deere Seeding Group Valley City broke ground on a $20 million expansion project that will provide an additional 100,000 square feet to the company’s manufacturing operations. John Deere initially opened its Valley City facility in 1996 to build tillage and air seeding equipment for customers worldwide. Now, with more than 300 employees, it is the largest employer in the town of about 6,500 people. The expansion project could add 50 to 100 new manufacturing and administrative positions over the next five years, says Jeff Kennedy, employee relations manager. “This is going to be huge for Valley City, both for the factory as well as for the city,” he says. The expansion project is expected to be complete by fall 2014 and will increase John Deere’s space in the facility by 33 percent, he says.

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple attended the Fargo facility’s inauguration and the groundbreaking ceremony at the Valley City location and said in statements released after the events that the expansion projects were a testament to North Dakota’s strong business climate. Budan supported that comment, noting that global companies such as John Deere have many options when considering expansion projects. “When we decide to expand an operation or put a new facility in place we have lots of alternatives and we look at many things when making the choice,” he says. “Certainly when you look at North Dakota, you look at the work ethic, the talent of the people, but you also look at the governmental climate as well. Both at the municipal level … and the state level, we believe John Deere’ story is always very well received.” PB

Kris Bevill

Editor, Prairie Business