“John Deere used to be several hundred dealer groups and now there are 34, so those opportunities don’t come along too often,” Baird explains.
The result: “We basically doubled our size in two years,” going from six sites in California to a total of 12 after adding three in Nevada and three in Idaho.
Coastline’s territory as a result now extends from Long Beach north to Boise, so the company now offers leasing, sales and rental options for John Deere construction and forestry equipment, as well as parts and service options, for a much larger territory.
“The sale was a great match,” Baird says. It lets them spread their overhead out.
Coastline has also been a longtime member of AED; its membership predates Baird’s assumption of his current leadership role.
Supporting The AED Foundation is something most industry companies do just because it makes sense, and Baird agrees. The education is one draw, he’s found. “It’s across the board,” and broader than Coastline’s John Deere focus.
Baird says he sees a lot more involvement in the future, now that they’ve gotten through their recent acquisition. Education will be a huge focus, he predicts. “We haven’t dabbled much in government affairs yet, but a big hot button for us is mechanics and technicians. They’re very difficult to find.
We compete with other companies, and everybody is looking for technicians.”
Coastline is involved with its own training package, too. They work with Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Oregon, to offer a Construction and Forestry Technology Program; participants graduate with an Associate of Applied Science degree. Graduates are then ready to work as John Deere construction and forestry technicians. They’ve graduated 15 to 18 students in the last 10 or 12 years, Baird says. They aim to enroll three to five each year. Scholarship options are available, too, so some enrollees may receive the training at no cost and can complete a paid internship.
“Some of our best field mechanics have come out of this program,” he says. “Kids score 95 percent-plus on tests. It’s a phenomenal program.”
It’s a solid option for some who would rather not seek a bachelor’s degree. “Not every kid is set up to go to a four-year university,” he says.
As a result Baird says he’d love to see more vocational-technical training options. “So many technical jobs are out there. It’s very hard to find employees. There are six-figure jobs and we are struggling to fill positions.
“Our industry has gotten very technically advanced,” he adds. “It’s not the old grunt work.”
Graduates of the Linn-Benton two-year program or something comparable usually have a pretty solid future mapped out. “There’s a John Deere dealer in just about every major city in the U.S., and that doesn’t count agriculture dealers or smaller cities.” The right training can lead to a job just about anywhere at just about any time.
Graduates can land $50,000-a-year jobs. Says Baird, “If they wanted to move they’d easily lock down a job” with that kind of training.
“It’s a ticket for life.”
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