Originally created 08/27/99

New plant will create jobs



John Deere is the world's leading producer of agricultural equipment, but in Columbia County the plant is best known for producing jobs.

The factory, which opened in 1991, has more than doubled its work force and size in the last decade. The company now has more than 400,000 feet of space it either owns or is leasing throughout Richmond and Columbia counties. The plant will consolidate operations in a new 206,000 square foot facility, slated to be built next year, said Paul Meyer, general manager.

At the John Deere plant in Grovetown, two types of compact utility tractors are made to order, the 4000 Series and 5000 Series.

"These are compact utility tractors used in commercial applications -- on small farms, landscaping, small construction and to mow grass," said Matthew Hurley, human resource manager. "While all the big ag tractors are idle, ours are busy."

From the shipping dock to the staging area, it takes about two and a half days to complete a tractor from start to finish. Inside the factory, tractor components zigzag across the plant on conveyor belts as each part is fitted into place.

These tractors are shipped to 50 countries around the world. In 1997 Deere earned $960 million on total sales and revenues of $12.79 billion.

"We bring the world to Grovetown, Georgia," Mr. Hurley said. "You can go to Australia, order a John Deere and the order will come here. When they talk about the global market, it's right here."

Mr. Hurley said the company made the decision to locate in Columbia County because of its access to major interstates and shipping ports.

"The southeast is the primary market area for our size tractors and Columbia County is a great location with I-20 transportation to the shipping ports," Mr. Hurley said.

John Deere also produces industrial equipment, engines and other powertrain components, and replacement parts for its own products and those of other manufacturers. John Deere also provides financial services including credit, insurance, and managed-health-care plans.

The company does business in more than 160 countries and employs 35,500 people worldwide. It was founded in 1837 by the pioneer blacksmith John Deere and incorporated under the name Deere & Co. in 1868 in Moline, Ill.

Melissa Hall can be reached at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113 or melhall@augustachronicle.com.

Five Year Plan

Project phase--New jobs/Square feet/Investment

Phase I--80 jobs/ 206,000 square feet/ $23 million investment

Phase II--51 jobs/ 6,000 square feet/ $3 million investment

Phase III--71 jobs/ 108,000 square feet/ not available