When True North Equipment owners Dan Gorder and John Oncken talk about their business, their deep commitment to customers, employees and communities is undeniable. It’s at the heart of their company’s mission and has been a major contributor to True North’s growth over the past 20 years, despite operating in a challenging industry.
“Agriculture is inherently unpredictable,” said Bremer banker Kevin Beito. “Weather and economic conditions can change quickly, but True North Equipment has demonstrated an ability to be agile. Their leadership is smart, innovative and highly capable.”
With support from Bremer to secure real estate loans and working capital needs, Gorder and Oncken have grown their business from a single John Deere dealership in Grafton, ND, to eight retail locations throughout the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota. They also operate a Resource Center in Grand Forks and are opening a first-of-its-kind IMPACT Center facility that will totally transform the True North customer experience and create exciting new career opportunities for its more than 200 employees. When fully operational in early 2021, the True North IMPACT Center will offer a heated, indoor space for customers to view, load and unload large machines – a significant benefit, particularly in the winter months. True North will also provide expanded customer and employee training on John Deere equipment and technology in the new facility.
“Our vision for more than a decade has been to streamline our assembly and preparation of new equipment and centralize our reconditioning of used machinery,” said Oncken. “Once we found the perfect building, Bremer’s deep knowledge of local financing programs and their willingness to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with us throughout the acquisition process was a huge advantage in bringing our vision to life.”
Both Gorder and Oncken also have high praise for Bremer’s support during the early days of the pandemic, particularly their management of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). “Bremer was way ahead of the curve in helping us apply for PPP loans,” Oncken said. “Their swift action helped us get approval before other banks had even started,” Gorder added.
As was the case for many companies, the start of the pandemic presented challenges for True North, which is uniquely positioned in the market to serve every customer segment across the entire spectrum of John Deere products, from the smallest to the largest. Out of concern for the safety of both employees and customers, True North closed all of its retail locations beginning in mid-March and remained closed for approximately 60 days – a peak time for sales of consumer lawn and garden and large ag equipment. But reflecting its culture of innovation, True North turned this challenge into an opportunity, capitalizing on its previous investment in technology and making it easy and safe for lawn and garden customers, farmers and cattle producers to order parts and equipment online using the MyTrueNorth mobile app. True North also created outdoor showrooms in their parking lots and adopted a socially distanced sales approach.
According to both owners, True North values its strong partnership with Bremer, which is based on mutual respect and trust. They appreciate Bremer’s curiosity and genuine interest in their business and the industry.
“It’s not surprising we feel at home with Bremer,” Gorder said. “They have a very knowledgeable and resourceful team, are investing in technology in ways that help their customers succeed, and they prioritize relationships over transactions. These are the same things that are most important to us at True North.”