A rapidly growing customer base and a vision to the future have brought a business to a new facility that can best be described as big.

Bucklin Tractor and Implement has opened its new John Deere facility on the southeast corner of the Pratt Regional Airport Industrial Park and is preparing for a grand opening from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 7.

The transition from the former facility, also in the industrial park, is still in progress. Furniture and equipment is still being transferred, said Kelly Estes, chief executive officer and president of BTI since 1987.

Estes has an office in the Pratt facility and will be in there one or two days a week. His son Jeremy is manager at Pratt.

The new facility is a result in part of the Greensburg tornado. The Greensburg BTI facility suffered heavy damage in the tornado that destroyed 95% of Greensburg on May 4, 2007.

Just 12 days after the tornado, BTI purchased the Pratt John Deere dealership from Don and Gina Hommertzheim because they needed a facility to serve their customers until a new building could be constructed in Greensburg. They took over the Pratt facility on July 2.

The move was a risk but a necessary one to continue to serve customers. The Ness City BTI facility had opened just three days before the Greensburg tornado but it was a long way for Pratt and Greensburg customers to go. 

“It was more of a survival move than anything else,” Estes said. “Some of our work had to be done outside and that was not the BTI policy.”

At first there was some concern about losing customers because they didn’t have facilities but those fears soon proved unwarranted.

“Our biggest fear was we’d lose clients,” Estes said. “We didn’t anticipate the amount of customers. The Pratt community is so phenomenal.”

The response was so overwhelming that the business soon outgrew the original airport facility about a mile north of the new building and something had to be done so development started on a new facility. Local contractors were used as much as possible during construction and they got a lot of help from the city, Estes said.

Staff from both Greensburg and Pratt worked at Pratt until the Greensburg facility could be replaced. Business was so good 17 more employees had to be hired.

When plans were considered for the new Pratt facility, some of the construction elements from the Greensburg facility were incorporated. The same group that built the Greensburg facility also built the Pratt facility.

The thing needed most in Pratt was space and they got it with the new building. The building is 50,000 square feet with 11,000 square feet in the upper level. It has a shop that is 90 feet by 250 feet and has 20 shop bays each 25 feet long with overhead chain hoists on both sides of the bay. The facility sits on 25 acres.

A washing bay is big enough to wash two combines at the same time, they have outside unloading bays for two truck heights and an inside unloading area as well.

“Pratt is built for serviceability,” Estes said.

The floors are heated, the shop has natural lighting and waste oil is used to heat the building.

“A lot of sustainability is built into this building.” Estes said.

A couple of offices are unoccupied at the moment but as everything is put in place they will probably be filled. There is even an office for Sue Peachey to sell John Deere Crop Insurance.

The customer parts area can accommodate several customers at the same time and is the largest service department of the four BTI facilities.

Besides John Deere equipment, they also have specialty equipment from Sunflower, Kinze, Landoll, Orthman and Great Plains.

A conference room is available for staff meetings, is available for community meetings as well and can accommodate from 75 to 100 people. It can be locked off from the rest of the building and is self-sustainable including restroom facilities.

An area north of the building is being prepared for equipment display.

For all its size, Estes is looking to the future and future growth.

“I hope I outgrow this facility,” Estes said. “It means I did the right thing.”

This is the fourth generation in the Estes family in the business. They started the business in 1944. They now operate four facilities in Bucklin, Greensburg, Ness City and Pratt.