Effort preserves local jobs
Thanks to a cooperative community effort, a McCook-based agricultural laboratory is staying in town, thereby preserving more than a dozen jobs and adding solidarity to the local economy.
Olsen's Agricultural Laboratory, established in 1976 by Bob and Connie Olsen, has been purchased by two of the firm's key employees: Kevin and Christine Grooms.
"Bob and Connie have built an outstanding company," Kevin and Christine said. "We are honored to follow them in serving ag and commercial customers."
Kevin joined Olsen's Ag Lab 20 years ago after receiving his degree from Chadron State College, where he majored in chemistry and biology. He started as a laboratory technician and was promoted to laboratory manager in 1991. Currently, Kevin is a member of the board of directors of the National Forage Testing Association.
Christine, originally from Prince Edward Island on the east coast of Canada, entered the ag analysis field following graduation from Nova Scotia Agricultural College in 1986. A year after Christine's marriage to Kevin in 2003, she joined Olsen's Agricultural Laboratory as a laboratory technician and certified crop advisor.
In addition to serving as co-owners, Kevin and Chris will continue their active roles in laboratory analysis.
Bob also will remain active in the firm, serving as a full-time consultant. "For the first year, my role will be much as it has been in the past, with Connie and my efforts dedicated to making the transition as seamless as possible. After that, we may slow down a little, but I foresee an active role for us for several years to come."
With a solid, experienced staff, Kevin and Christine plan few changes in the immediate future. "We are fortunate to have experienced staff members like Donna Garretson, the business manager, who has been with the firm 29 years; Skip Cunningham, the lab's Chief Information Officer, with 20 years of service; and Karen Stewart, a lab tech with 18 years of service."
Operating from headquarters at 210 East First Street in McCook, Olsen's Agricultural Laboratory serves thousands of customers in more than half of the states in America, plus customers with ag analytical needs in Mexico and Canada.
The firm has 12 full-time employees, as well as numerous seasonal employees during peak business periods. Since starting with 1,000 square feet of space 31 years ago, Olsen's Ag Lab now occupies more than 7,500 square feet of laboratory and office space.
The lab's customer base is multi-faceted. The Olsens and Groomses named some of the customer categories, including feed manufacturers, feed dealers, fertilizer dealers, construction companies, municipalities, feedlot consultants, animal nutritionists, crop consultants and government agencies, including a number of Natural Resource Districts.
"The company's main area of emphasis is Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado, but we also have a number of customers in Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle," Kevin and Bob said.
Bob, Connie, Kevin and Christine had high praise for the assistance they received in planning and completing the transition. "I am very impressed," Kevin said. "The community stepped up to make the sale possible."
Among those playing key roles in the transaction were Rex Nelson, executive director of the McCook Economic Development Corp., and Brian Esch, president of McCook National Bank.
"We were also well served by our advisors," Bob said. Terry Ellinger, CPA, and Stan Goodwin, attorney at law, represented the Olsens, while Jason Loop, CPA, and Ron Mousel, attorney, represented Mr. and Mrs. Grooms.
"I commend the Olsens for planning an orderly transition," said Nelson, McCook's economic development director. "Too often businesses are lost when proprietors approach the end of their careers. The McCook community is fortunate that the company has someone of the Groomses' caliber to step forward. This is a good example of how the revolving loan fund can help our economy. We owe special thanks to the Red Willow County Commissioners for overseeing the fund."
The sale of Olsen's Agricultural Laboratory was effective Thursday. "Bob and Connie have laid a strong foundation for Olsen's Agricultural Laboratory," Kevin said. "Both Chris and I have strong ties to agriculture. We look forward to serving the laboratory's customers and being contributors to the McCook economy."