A conversation with Quality Irrigation of Southwest Nebaska
McCOOK, Nebraska -- During the past four years, it has been exciting to watch the flurry of activity at the Quality Irrigation store on north U.S. Highway 83 in McCook.
Since opening in February of 2010, the irrigation sales and service company has more than quintupled in size, going from four employees in the beginning to 22 employees in the summer of 2014.
"The need for full service irrigation work in this area was desperate," said Al Dunworth, the manager of Quality Irrigation's operations in Southwest Nebraska. "As a result, Valmont and Quality Irrigation approached me, suggesting that we open a store and service center in McCook to respond to the needs of irrigators in five Southwest Nebraska counties: Dundy, Hitchcock, Hayes, Red Willow and Frontier.
Immediately following the opening of the store, it became apparent that the companies made the right decision. Business was brisk from the beginning and continues to grow.
Why? What's driving the growth? When these questions were put to Dunworth by the Gazette, here was his response:
"The growth is driven by impeccable service crews who understand how critical water management has become. At Quality Irrigation, we spend a lot of time teaching our staff the art of growing crops so they fully comprehend what our customer's needs are and how important it is for each one of them to excel at what they do. Because of reduced allocations, we no longer carry the full moisture profiles we used to. This means when machinery fails, the irrigator has less time to allow for repairs before the yields begin to suffer. It has become increasingly more critical that our company has the parts on hand and gets to the field faster with our services."
Continuing the questioning, the Gazette asked Dunworth: "What are the services that Quality Irrigation provides?"
Dunworth answers, "We pride ourselves in being the only 'pump to end gun company' in Southwest Nebraska. That means we design, install and repair every facet of the irrigation project ourselves. This is a huge advantage for our customers."
"Why is this such a huge advantage," the Gazette reporter asked:
Dunworth answers, "There are companies that only do pivots and companies that only do pumps. The same with pipe, wire and motors. These components must work in unison to create a highly efficient irrigated field, but often times they don't because the designs were done without considering each component's effect on the other components. It is advantageous to the farmer to keep it all under one roof. By doing so, he is assured that the designs of each component fit exactly into the larger picture of the whole project. Quality Irrigation's customers do not have to worry about different companies playing 'the blame game' on a project that turned out less than stellar. They don't have to because their projects are designed and installed by one company."
Next, the Gazette asks: "So you cover the entire gamut of irrigation. Some irrigation companies are involved in grain bins and things like that. How about your company?"
Dunworth responds, "No, irrigation is it. I think companies wear too many hats sometimes. Quality Irrigation specializes in irrigation and irrigation only. It has our full attention. If design specialists do their homework as they should, they're not going to have time to dabble in other things. Even our service techs are booked with homework and training ... they don't have time to be involved in another trade."
Following up, the Gazette asks: Quality Irrigation stands out. What makes them so different?
Dunworth explains: "Obviously, the things that everyone notices are the equipment and manpower. We keep a large full-time staff and a huge fleet for our customers. And, of course, the Valmont factory right here in our home port makes us significantly different. But what our customers know that those passing by could not possibly know is that we stock a huge, diverse inventory at our facility. We know our customers are busy. We want them to be able to come in, pick up any part they might need and not have to wait. And we listen to our customers' requests for things they would like us to stock and we oblige them. But the real difference maker is our personnel. We hire career-minded employees. The younger members of our staff fully expect someday to be the wise old irrigation gurus and they know what kind of effort it will take to become that person. We allow our staff to cross-train upon occasion. We want our pivot techs to understand pumps and pipelines and vice versa. We think cross-training makes for more rounded, more technically skilled employees."
Continuing the dialogue, the Gazette asks: "McCook is not the only Quality Irrigation facility is it?"
Dunworth answers: "No, our sister office in Yuma has been a powerhouse of the irrigation world for 28 years strong. We don't often need assistance, but when we do, I can't think of any company better equipped to assist us than our Yuma facility. Their equipment and experience is unmatched by any company I have ever seen."
Asked by the Gazette to compare the Yuma and McCook facilities, Dunworth had this to say:
"Well, Yuma has more salt than we do. If you've got an obscure pump or an ancient pivot, Yuma's experience is invaluable. But if you like telecommunications, programmable panels, gps guidance -- and other high-end technological devices -- the McCook facility is a good choice. The McCook staff thrives on that kind of stuff."
The Gazette wonders, "Is that a rivalry I detect?"
Dunworth concludes, "Not at all. Both offices have an immense amount of respect for what each is accomplishing. Our two facilities cover 10,000 square miles, 700,000 irrigated acres and 6,000 pivots. We really don't have time to create rivalries. But our state does have a better football team than theirs, and even they won't argue that."