Klark Byrd, The Sydney Sun-Telegraph, Published Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

BRIDGEPORT — Two recognizable names among John Deere dealerships in the High Plains have announced their intent to merge — a move hailed by the future company’s CEO as a “merger of equals.”

Kay Jan, headquartered in Fort Morgan, Colo., and 21st Century Equipment, headquartered in Bridgeport, have announced May 1 as the date of merger completion. The resulting company will carry the 21st Century Equipment name.

“This is not an acquisition of one company by another. It is truly a merger of equals,” said Owen Palm, who will serve as chief executive officer of the firm. Palm is currently CEO and general manager of 21st Century Equipment. “We’re creating an even stronger John Deere dealership with the expertise, market breadth, knowledge and financial footings to provide our customers with an even more robust, reliable and responsive local resource.”

Jeff Bieber, current president of Kay Jan who will serve as chief operations officer of the merged company, agreed, saying the largest change Kay Jan customers will notice is the name.

“The 21st Century Equipment name is more reflective of the forward-looking market leadership that Owen and I perceive will be achieved by this newly merged company,” he said. “Over the years, it has been the people and the relationships that have built the Kay Jan brand, not the name on the building.”

Kay Jan says it has built a solid reputation for parts and service while 21st Century Equipment touts its expertise in technology and innovation. Those are strengths company officials say customers will continue to recognize after the merger.

“With the merger, customers in both markets will be able to tap into the strengths of both,” Palm said. “Customers will have greater parts inventory and availability and a broader range of equipment and technology from which to choose.”

The merger has been smooth, Palm said, and the leaders of each company have discovered how similar their cultures are.

“It’s basically good people doing good work for great customers — and that’s why both companies have been successful,” he said.

“This new company is positioned to serve customers across the High Plains with leading edge ag technology over the long haul as agriculture is faced with challenge and opportunity,” Bieber said.

In addition to its Fort Morgan headquarters, Kay Jan has Colorado locations in Flagler, Akron, and Cheyenne Wells, plus a location in Leoti, Kan. 21st Century Equipment has Nebraska locations in Alliance, Gordon, Imperial, Ogallala, and Sidney, in addition to its Bridgeport headquarters.

Customers with questions about the merger are invited to contact Jeff Bieber at 970-867-9434 or Owen Palm at 308-631-0082.