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Highland Tractor Reopens Branch

Fri June 24, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Lori Lovely

Highland Tractor Co. has weathered some economic storms since it first opened in 1974 in Ocala, Fla. Diversification into agricultural and forestry equipment has helped Highland survive in central Florida, but it’s John Deere’s “yellow line” of construction equipment that has always been the company’s main focus.

“We concentrate on road-building equipment such as dozers, excavators, wheel loaders and motor graders,” confirmed Gary Coffman, general manager.

To help owner/operator Sid Varner better serve customers and support his other five central Florida locations, he is reopening the Chiefland site as a parts depot. The former dealership was closed in 2007 due to economic hard times, the property rented out. Coffman views the reopening as a sign of recovery and says the branch will continue to gradually expand to eventually include sales and service.

“Support is highly important,” Coffman said. “People like to buy in their own community.” He believes Highland offers a non-corporate advantage because it takes an active role in the community and is responsive to customers without having to wait to go through “layers of decision.”

“Sid is the only day-to-day owner/operator in the business,” he continued. “That makes a difference. Customers can call and talk directly to the owner.”

Coffman reiterated the company motto: small enough to know you, large enough to serve you.

Although Varner had taken early retirement, he returned during the recession to guide the company.

“Having the owner on site is important for the customers and it influences the rest of the staff. He understands the fundamentals that built the business,” Coffman stated.

One of those fundamentals is seamless integration of customer needs, which the reopening of the Chiefland branch will allow them to do.

“Rentals are back strong,” Coffman pointed out. And with the interim Tier IV engine initiating a major reissue, Highland Tractor is striving to stay ahead of the curve by offering some new models and changing engines to retrofit older models.

Overall, Coffman sees this as a period of growth. “There’s a lot of optimism right now.” CEG

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