Dealer rides waves of changing economy
Last remaining local tractor dealer caters to dairies' needs
By JOHN SCHMITZ
For the Capital Press
Probably the best word to describe Boyd Rulifson is "survivor."
When Rulifson entered the business in 1979 there were four other tractor dealers in Tillamook, Ore., a center of the state's dairy business and home of the Tillamook County Creamery Association.
Today he's the last one standing.
At first, Boyd's Implement Service provided mechanical work only. Three years later, Rulifson began stocking equipment.
Raised on a dairy farm in Cloverdale, Rulifson learned tractor mechanics at Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore., where he got his associate's degree in automotive repair.
When Rulifson opened his business, he first specialized in Massey-Ferguson tractors. But then he picked up the Kubota and McCormick lines, and M-F was discontinued.
Kubota is by far his biggest seller.
Other equipment Rulifson handles includes Kuhn-Knight dairy equipment and Gehl construction equipment -- "anything on the non-milking side of dairy," he said.
Four years ago, Rulifson bought out Mitchel Pumps and now manufactures those.
Rulifson and his wife, Nancy, who handles office details, are very much hands-on owner-operators. While he has mechanics on staff, he doesn't mind working on equipment himself.
Boyd's tractors range from the small utility type up to 165 PTO horsepower.
While he operates in Tillamook County, Rulifson said that as the economy has weakened, tractor and equipment competitors, including dealers from outside the county, are knocking on dairy doors.
This tactic was not nearly as prevalent before the economy faltered, Rulifson said.
He has the advantage, however, of being the only local parts and service facility. This is illustrated by the fact that he commands around 80 percent of the local market when it comes to tractor sales below 100 horsepower.
Fortunately, several small cattle ranches and a few nurseries in the area do business with him, supplementing that of the dairies.
New Kubotas have been greatly outselling used ones, Rulifson said.
"I used to have a huge trade-in market years ago, but that market is gone," he said. "Used tractors, you have to pay cash for."