Booming Scott County farm equipment business moving down the road to a bigger home

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comJune 8, 2014 

— In 1946, the folks at International Harvester told Bill Bevins that if he sold a lot of refrigerators and freezers, they would let him sell their tractors.

He did sell a lot, including one, according to son Jimmy Bevins, to a woman without electricity. When workers made the delivery, they couldn't find a plug.

In those days, Jimmy Bevins said, people were enamored with new technology, and his father, now 95, had a goal to get Scott County farmers to switch from original horsepower to the mechanical kind.

Now Jimmy Bevins is ready to take the family business — now a John Deere dealership — into yet another technological age by moving to a $3 million farm machinery showplace with room for demonstrations and test drives, and a new service bay big enough to handle the increasingly larger machines.

"Farming isn't about cows and sows anymore," he said.

Bevins Motor Co. has gone from refrigerators and freezers to $200,000 pieces of machinery that use sophisticated software to determine the precise amount of fertilizer needed per row and a precise per-acre yield.

They are GPS-equipped, so the farmer can plug in some numbers and the machine will drive itself while the farmer relaxes in and air-conditioned cab, listening to a little Brad Paisley on the CD.

Although there have been many news stories about the burley bust, the farm machinery business is booming.

The size of farms in Kentucky is expanding, and with them the need for bigger, more robust machines to work those farms, said William Snell, extension professor in the department of agriculture at the University of Kentucky.

According to the most recent agriculture census, the total value of farm machinery in Kentucky grew from $4.9 billion in 2007 to $5.4 billion in 2012.

And Jimmy Bevins, 56, is happy to sell you whatever you need.

His new dealership will be on Lexington Road, just 1.4 miles south of the current site, at the 460 Bypass and Lexington Road. The original Bevins Motor Co. started by Bill Bevins burned down in 1950. The current site is now a hodge-podge of buildings for a total of 10,000 square feet. The new dealership will have 47,000 square feet on 10 acres.

Bevins' move is a result of a change in the way John Deere had traditionally done business. Starting in 2008, the farm equipment giant decided to move away from mom-and-pop dealers. After concentrating for years in Scott County — the family lived in a house on the property until he was 18 — Jimmy Bevins bought out smaller dealers in Paris, Richmond and Mount Sterling and brought them under the Bevins Motor Co. banner.

He expanded the number of employees from 12 to 55 and plans to add more in the new space. He now provides tractors, supplies and service to customers in 26 Kentucky counties. He also sells riding mowers and ATVs, but he no longer deals in refrigerators and freezers.

Bevins doesn't like to talk sales revenue. It seems boastful, he said. But he does say that the business has increased 25-fold since he took over from his father in 1980.

Expanding the business hasn't been without challenges. For more than a year, he fought to rezone the property where the new Bevins Motor Co. will be.

Although his family owned the land, it was zoned for agricultural use. It needed to be changed to a commercial designation. Ironically, he said, the zoning commission wanted to preserve green space. After months of pushing, he started to talk about moving to a different county.

Dale Glass, a friend of Bevins and a farmer, said he helped pack the Fiscal Court and zoning committee meetings and let local officials know that the zoning needed to be changed.

Bevins Motor Co., he said, "is one of the oldest family-owned businesses in Scott County."

Glass said he doesn't understand why there was resistance.

"We had a courtroom full of ag-related individuals," he said. The Farm Bureau supported the move; the Scott County Future Farmers of America supported the move. Over the years, the Bevins family has been "a big, big sponsor" allowing the FFA to provide more than $300,000 in scholarships.

Scott County Judge-Executive George Lusby said he was glad that the zoning was approved.

"I think the whole community kind of took up behind them," said Lusby, praising the family for being good business people and good citizens. Jimmy's mother, Ann Bevins, is a well-known Scott County historian.

Jimmy Bevins is glad to feel the love. When the new dealership is finished, he plans to call on his farmer friends to create a farm-machinery caravan to take his equipment 1.4 miles down Lexington Road.

Glass said he'll be there, driving the first tractor.

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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