Pratt location hosts a green and gold, plus more, party.
More than 250 farmers, customers, friends of customers, BTI employees and others gathered at Pratt's BTI branch Wednesday to celebrate the company's 75th anniversary with prizes, food and give-aways at their location on North Highway 281 near the Pratt Regional Airport.
Greg Kerschen of Cunningham was the grand prize winner of a year's use, or 250 hours (whichever comes first) on a 1020R tractor, with a 120R loader bucket. But he wasn't the only one leaving with a smile on his face at the end of the day as those in attendance enjoyed free BTI mugs, smothered steak and cheesy potatoes for lunch and shared information from the farm and lawn equipment experts on hand. The five varieties of John Deere colored cupcakes, provided by Sandi's Sweet Surprises added to the festive fun as well.
"It's been a real busy week already for us already, planning for the six anniversary celebrations," said BTI Marketing Manager Karly Frederick.
Similar 75th anniversary celebrations were planned for Kansas BTI locations in Ness City, Great Bend, Hoxie, Greensburg and Bucklin, as well as in Pratt.
The company was founded by Ralph Estes as the Bucklin Tractor and Implement Company (BTI) in 1944 in southwest Kansas. Dallas Schellhamer was an early partner, but left the company and was bought out by Estes, who enlisted family members to help run the company. His son, Maynard Estes, took over in 1960 as business owner and manager, whose four children took up the mantel of management when he died from lung cancer in 1987. Kelly Estes, youngest of those four, is the current CEO, his brother Mike (the third son) is Senior Vice President. Older brother Bud Estes worked with BTI for 40 years before going to the House of Representatives in Topeka, and Maynard Estes' daughter, Letty Bachelor is the current CFO. Jeremie Estes, son of Kelly Estes, is a corporate sales manager with the company and nephew Ron Yancy is the Bucklin Store Manager.
The Pratt branch was established in 2007 when BTI acquired MidCo Implement out by the airport. The new building which currently houses BTI office staff, service technicians and farm and lawn equipment for sale, plus a wide variety of accompaniment merchandise, was built in 2011.
"We are not only a great place to shop for farm equipment and lawn accessories, but we offer four different areas of expertise to our customers," Frederick said.
Those four areas are sales, parts, service and technology. In sales there is the traditional large John Deere farm machinery, plus a wide variety of new and used implements. Parts are available or obtainable for all equipment BTI sales and service technicians are available for everything sold, including a wide-line of Stihl products for lawn and garden use. Mobile trucks and technicians are on-call 24-7 for farm emergencies. The fourth area, farm technology, is facilitated by BTI Ag Solutions, headed by Isaac Spare in Pratt, an integrated solutions specialist who helps gain financing or other farm-system advances.
Key to customer satisfaction is the fact that most BTI employees come from a long background of farming themselves. Frederick said her family was made up of several generations of farmers and custom-harvesters from the Alden area. One-year employee Kyle Howell said his family farmers in Oklahoma and Kansas, and he particularly enjoyed deer hunting as well as tractor work. He currently drives the bulk oil truck for the Pratt BTI. Mike Davis, corporate parts manager said that though his farm family was based in Bucklin, he traveled to all of the branch stores regularly to make sure parts dealers had what they needed to help their customers succeed. Three generations of his family have worked for BTI through the years, creating longevity and understanding for agriculture and the farmers who make it work.
That longevity and understanding is simply an extension of founder's son Maynard Estes's philosophy that to know the business one must understand every part of it. It helped grow a small farm implement company from 1944 beginnings to a current John Deere dealer in 24 counties, 23 in Kansas and 1 in Oklahoma.