Regina, Sasketchewan-based Ralph McKay Industries says it's in the final stages of talks to buy the assets of Harvest Services Ltd. of Craik, Sasketchewan.

Harvest Services will continue to operate in Craik, but as a division of Ralph McKay. It will be managed by Scott Vibert, son of Carol Vibert, who joined Harvest in its early years and became an owner in 1995 with two partners.

The deal is expected to close March 1. Ralph McKay Industries is a well-established manufacturer of tillage tools, including cultivators, furrowers, drill shoes and vegetable tools. Harvest is a supplier of combine service parts. David Pitt, president of the McKay-Empire-Wiese (MEW) group of companies, which includes Ralph McKay Industries Inc., said Harvest was formed in the late 1970s as a partnership between an American marketer and a Canadian designer. "Its original market for these things was basically anywhere in North America where combines were sold."

But over the last few years, Harvest has found workers at its Craik facility were being lured away by jobs in Regina, Saskatoon or the potash industry, he said.

As a result, Harvest management was forced to downsize its operation, "very sensibly" focusing on the most accessible markets in Saskatchewan, with "a little bit into Manitoba and Alberta and a little bit in the U.S.," he added.

Giles said Ralph McKay Industries is "very pleased" with the workforce in Craik — about 10 personnel.

"The limiting factor will be the remaining labour situation in Craik," he said Monday. "If we can't get more people in Craik, we will transfer some of the manufacturing to Regina — but that's only to free up the labor that remains in Craik to expand what business remains there."

"The first priority is to grow the business; the second priority is to find the labour to do that. If we can't find that in Craik, then we'll certainly use our existing labour in Regina."

MEW Group distributes tillage parts throughout Canada and the U.S., Europe and Australia. Its website says it is owned jointly by the McLeod and Giles families of Regina. Ralph McKay operates out of Regina; Empire Plow in Cleveland and Wiese Industries in Perry, Iowa. Ralph McKay Industries arrived in Regina in 1975 as a subsidiary of an Australian agricultural equipment manufacturing firm of the same name.