North Dakota Dealers Respond to Flooding - Industry Beat
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North Dakota Dealers Respond to Flooding

CED Magazine, June 2009

Article Date: 06-01-2009
Copyright(C) 2009 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

Local dealers were instrumental in assisting flood prevention efforts.

Equipment dealers throughout North Dakota worked tirelessly to battle major flooding in the Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn., area in late March, when the Red River that flows between the two cities spilled over its banks.

When the National Weather Service predicted that the Red River would crest between 41 and 43 feet – more than 20 feet above flood stage, local equipment dealers worked to save not only their own homes, but also the homes of their neighbors, employees and the community.

The week of March 23 was the height of the coordinated flood prevention effort, leading up to the Red River cresting at a record 40.8 feet on March 28.

“It was a really strong community effort,” said Dan Butler, president of Butler Machinery Co. “One of the greatest contributors to beating the flood was everyone banding together and helping out.”

Keeping Floodwaters at Bay
The National Weather Service kept revising its predictions for how high the river would crest, so each day the height of the sandbagging efforts and dikes had to be adjusted, explained Don Shilling, president of General Equipment & Supplies.

“We had a week to get all the sandbags and dikes in place, so on that Monday [March 23] just about every piece of equipment disappeared and went out somewhere,” said Shilling.

In addition, General Equipment had the opportunity to step outside their usual job scope. The City of Fargo hired the company to help them build a five-mile dike at Drain 27.

“We played the role of a construction company,” said Shilling. “Our technicians filled the role of operators, and we built the better part of the dike.”

Like so many area dealers, General Equipment’s employees volunteered to be a part of the sandbagging efforts. During the course of the week more than 3 million sandbags were filled – by hand, he said.

“It’s amazing what a collaborative effort like that can create,” said Shilling. “I think it’s been a very positive morale booster for our community as well. That’s what’s nice about this size community – everyone got involved in order for us to win.”

Practice What You Preach
RDO Equipment Co.’s employees were also very much involved in the sandbagging efforts. While some employees were out filling sandbags, others stayed in the Field Support Office to ensure that business could continue normally for employees, stores and customers not affected by the flood.

“We used all of our physical and human resources,” said Jean Zimmerman, vice president of organizational development for RDO. “The company stepped up in ways that were pretty remarkable.”
Zimmerman says the flood helped dramatically demonstrate RDO’s company culture and the character of its employees.

“We are able to say that our core values aren’t just a saying that looks good on a business card – this is really what we believe in,” she said.

CEO Christi Offutt added, “During times of crisis, people’s true character comes out. I’ve never been more proud of the character that was shown by the employees than I was during the fight to save our community.”

Positive Outcomes
On the upside, local dealers gained business because of the flood prevention efforts.
“There will be a lot of summer work to not only clean up the area, but now they are looking at long-range solutions to our flooding problems, which will create some work in the months and years to come,” said Shilling.

Mike Swanston, president of Swanston Equipment added, “What’s positive in this is that there will be a review of the flood and what we can do to prevent it in the future.”

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