Elie's AgWest made a big announcement this past Wednesday. The business head office is located in Elie where everything began, and It's been a year since Mechan got involved with the company. Operations manager Don Miller says things have gone significantly forward since then.

"In the past, we've operated under the Toromont umbrella and there's certain pros and cons that go along with that. Toromont's specialty was not in ag, etc. When we were purchased about a year ago, there was of course some uncertainty and so forth. I'll quote our CEO. He says, 'Don, we do three things: ag, ag, and ag. I think it's important to note that although they're an equipment distribution company, they're really, really all about the farmer. And I think that is something that was missing was, 'How do we make this better for the farmer?'"

He notes happy customers lead to happy employees which leads to business success.

"We call it the carve-out. There are still a few lingering effects. We've had to implement our own HR department and accounting functions, which we didn't have before. It was centralized, and now, we're decentralized."

He notes that they have also invested largely in their parts department, having grown their inventory by $2,500,000. 

"Our objective with this is to ensure that 9 out of 10 parts requested are readily available at every branch. So what that means is, if you come in to buy a part, there’s a nine in ten chance that we’re going to have that part on our shelf in that branch."

"We've built a coverall here to house the excess parts that we need. Mechan is very proactive. They're very supportive when it comes to allowing the dealer to grow. But, more importantly, we need to do a better job for the farmers. That's the goal, and we're very optimistic that the rest will fall into place if we take good care of the providers."

Miller says based on feedback they have had from producers thus far, they are well on the way to having the right parts available at the right branches.

"Having these parts, means farmers gain a lot." we want to have the right parts to minimize downtime for farmers."

Miller says the last thing a farmer wants during Harvest is a broken belt they can't find at a parts dealer. 

Sales Manager Martin Windus says the year's flown by quite quickly since Mechan took over, with a lot of conversation and actions that were put in place. 

"There's been a lot of projects and a lot of execution. I would say it's exciting because there's been a lot of good ideas and opportunities that have received attention that weren't quite getting it prior to. The discussions and plans to put up a new facility in Brandon and Russell is really exciting for AgWest and Farmers, too. It's a massive investment and commitment. Increasing our parts of inventory to beyond 25 per cent what it was historically. We went beyond stocking what our manufacturers were suggesting we needed to stock. So, we wanted to exceed a set expectation there."

"We're always looking to add good, motivated workers. In 2023, we added to our coverage up in Swan River with the hiring of a local and experienced field service technician. We are  renting some shop space, and stocking Parts up there, as well.  And just within the last month or so, we have hired six technicians that will support our Brandon, Russell, and Morden locations.  We're just trying to enhance the level of support that we can offer across all of Manitoba."

Brandon will have its own facility and Russell has a new build slated, as well.

"In Russell, we're currently leasing a small facility. This will be a big enhancement over our current setup. Not only will we be capable of storing more parts, we also will have significantly more shop space and tooling, as well.  We are planning to draw in more local staff as a result, It'll definitely be better for staff and customers there."

He notes part of the progress in migration toward independence is implementing their full new CRM within the company. Windus says that's something they've never had in the past.

Wndus says the very beginning of the business started with Powell Equipment.

"It was in that timeframe that two companies made a joint venture and that's what brought combines to North America. Then you fast forward, Powell Equipment sold to Toromont Industries, Now it becomes Toromont Cat, and we were a division of that. It eventually became known as Toromont Ag. Fast forward all the way to 2023, Toromont decides to make a deal with the Mechan group out of the Netherlands. Here we are today. So it goes all the way back to the mid-late '90s. Some of us like me have been here from the very start. We are trying to very much enhance our abilities to perform a next level of customer support. A new example of such is the development a new team called Precision Plus, led by Andrew Zenz, that we're really excited about. That's a group of staff here that are focused on the technology side of what our machines and farmers can do. Some might call them "GPS guys/girls" but it is intended to go well beyond that."
Windus adds it's to supply, support, and educate, our customers on what's available in the technology side of the business. He notes the technology aspect is arguably bigger than the machine, itself. 

"It was all right here in Elie, and spread out. We've shared locations in Brandon, but through acquisitions, historically, we expanded into Neepawa, Morden, and into Russell. Products will always come, but what I'm most excited about is what we're investing in our ability to just be a better company, not only for our staff, but for our customers. That might sound sound a bit cheesy, but that is what I'm most excited about. That's not to say we weren't already a good company but just that desire to take it to another level is pretty neat to see."