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Making a name: Kubota turns heads, dirt at Stock Show

In 1980, when the Zimmerer family first displayed Kubota tractors at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, they parked them in a central space in the old Round-Up Inn commercial exhibits area.

Right out of the chute, said Fort Worth-based dealership partner Larry Zimmerer, managers and staff met an identity challenge with most Stock Show sightseers and shoppers:

“We spent more time telling people what a Kubota was or how to pronounce the name,” said Zimmerer during the Stock Show & Rodeo ending Feb. 6 in Will Rogers Memorial Center. He was in the spacious Zimmerer Kubota display area. It’s been in the same central relocation in Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall since that building was opened in 1984.

Today, new and old visitors alike, including the children, generally recognize the brand and know that Kubota tractors originated in Japan, Larry and cousin/partner Sam Zimmerer said. But since the mid-1980s, ironically, Kubota has been initiating and expanding U.S. manufacturing plants and distribution centers in Georgia and also a distribution center in Kansas.

For the Zimmerer Kubota & Equipment Inc. dealership — headquartered at the 5165 Mark IV Parkway store in Fort Worth, with four other Metroplex stores — Larry is the vice president overseeing internal and parts operations while Sam is vice president overseeing sales, marketing and rentals. Their semi-retired partner, Larry’s brother Len Zimmerer, reviews real estate and auditing.

Since 1979, the Zimmerers have been in business selling and servicing Kubota tractors and the steadily growing Kubota lineup of new tractors, rough terrain vehicles (RTVs), skid-steer and track loaders, backhoes, mowers, balers and related machinery for farm, ranch, home, construction and other land-related chores.

“Since 1981, we’ve been the largest or one of the leading (based on sales) Kubota dealers in the United States,” Sam Zimmerer said in a recent phone interview. They have a staff of about 90 employees across the Gainesville, Denton, Decatur, Cleburne and Fort Worth locations.

“We love the Stock Show & Rodeo,” Sam said, adding that Zimmerers have long Stock Show roots, including family members selling, delivering and unloading bedding straw for exhibitors’ livestock and horses at the annual event since the 1950s.

Sam and Larry credit their Kubota exhibits space and other Stock Show links for big help with introducing Kubota to Texans and other folk coming to the annual Cowtown event.

“This is our kickoff (event) for the year, every year,” Larry Zimmerer said. “It’s the most important show of the year for us.”

The big sales boosts come during the rest of the year and longer term, they said.

“We may sell a tractor (or some other implement) to someone we met five years ago or two years ago or this year at the show,” Sam said, adding that the sales ripple effect has grown over the years.

And soon, by late 2016 or early 2017, there may be a new surge in Kubota name recognition.

Another major Kubota identity-booster and likely Southwest U.S. Kubota sales-booster will be joining the Metroplex Kubota brand lineup: As announced last May for a transition ending in early 2017, the Torrance, Calif.-based headquarters of Kubota Tractor Corp. (KTC) and Kubota Credit Corporation (KCC) will relocate their headquarters to Grapevine. Both are U.S. subsidiaries of Osaka, Japan-based Kubota Corp., which began exporting its tractors to the United States in the late 1960s.

Corporate publicity releases cited the relocation – bringing more than 180 jobs to new facilities in Grapevine – as the latest Kubota move to generate “increased efficiencies” after recent expansions as parts of “an aggressive growth strategy.”

About 180 of the transferred positions will come from California, plus some selected additional corporate-focused jobs from Kubota Credit’s offices in Fort Worth and others from Georgia and Kansas factory and distribution locations.

One estimate of the total jobs to be transferred at 200-300, with only about 20 percent of the affected employees actually relocating to the Grapevine/Fort Worth/Metroplex area. Texas state-level and Grapevine city-level incentives have facilitated Kubota’s relocation.

That could mean 80 percent of the 200-300 jobs being filled by new hires in North Texas.

Regardless, Sam Zimmerer said he expects the Texas jobs to include corporate, national level and support positions in management, engineering, insurance, marketing and sales, services, manufacturing and parts distribution logistics.

“That will be a big positive for us, just down the road,” he said.

Kubota, he said, has been listening to input from Zimmerer Kubota since its startup. It soon became a leading dealer, and it was the leading U.S. dealership, among 1,000-1,100 nationwide, by sales volume in 2012-1013 and in the top 10 in 2014-2015, he said.

Corporate news releases cited growth advantages by putting the entire corporate-level staff “closer to Kubota’s major markets and its manufacturing, assembly and distribution facilities in Georgia and Kansas.”

That means, corporate stated, being “able to respond more quickly to changes in markets and the industry, and streamline its operations for both dealer and customer benefit.”

Having Zimmerer Kubota’s headquarters conveniently near corporate headquarters can only bring positive impact, said Sam Zimmerer. Mutual benefits could come in new product design and development, marketing strategies and other areas. Completion of construction of the new corporate base is expected by early next year.

And the Zimmerers did not rule out the relocation bringing some display additions to the Zimmerer Kubota exhibit space at future Stock Shows.

“We’ll get more name recognition,” said Larry Zimmerer.

The family history with the Stock Show & Rodeo goes far beyond exhibiting and renting tractors. Sam, Larry and Len first came to see Stock Show Rodeos around the ages of 7-9.

During Christmas breaks from school in the 1970s, Sam said, he and Larry worked in this family hay vending venture. Another cousin, Rudy Zimmerer, continues as show straw contractor. Their fathers were already farming, ranching and trading farm equipment in the 1940s.

Since 1980, Zimmerer Kubota has been one of the Stock Show & Rodeo vendors supplying grounds tractors with implements for prepping the dirt arenas for rodeos, cattle and horse shows, and other events. Kubota tractors also pull wagons ferrying show goers from parking areas to the show grounds.

“We’ve been in the business long enough to sell to the kids,” Larry said, noting that 2016 was the first year for the Zimmerer Kubota show team to sell toys at their exhibits location.

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