Henry Aschoff and Keith Wiehn, president and vice-president, respectively, of Petersen Ag Systems, Inc., have been named the Nebraska Small Business of the Year for 2013. The Norfolk-based firm is an agricultural equipment supplier of irrigation and grain handling products with outlets in Osmond, Hartington and Fremont, and Onawa, Iowa.
The company was nominated for the honor by Loren Kucera, Director, Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC), Wayne. They have been invited to attend the culmination of National Small Business Week June 21 in Washington, D.C., and will compete against candidates from all 50 states and territories for selection as the SBA’s National Small Business Person of the Year.
As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration will take the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners. More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and these firms create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.
Petersen Ag Systems was chosen as the state’s top small business based on its history as an established business, growth in number of employees, increase in sales and unit volume, response to adversity and innovation in products and services offered.
Seeking to purchase the business in 2000, Aschoff and Wiehn turned to NBDC for technical assistance and help packaging an SBA 7(a) loan application.
Since buying the business 13 years ago, Aschoff and Wiehn have grown the company from 11 employees to 41; the company hires 15 to 20 part-time employees during the summer, and plans to hire an additional 10 to 12 employees over the next 12 to 18 months.
Sales steadily have grown from $3.2 million in 2000 to nearly $20 million in 2012, a figure which includes sales of 12 used center pivot irrigation systems to a U.S. company which in turn exports them to agricultural businesses in the Ukraine. Over the next five to 10 years, Petersen Ag Systems expects indirectly to export another 300 more used pivot systems to the eastern European country.
The pair guided the company through the recent nationwide economic downturn by cutting their own salaries, freezing new equipment purchases and reducing inventory, all while keeping its workforce intact.
“How we do business has separated us from the competition,” Adchoff said. “We want to be able to go to church on Sunday and not have to hide from anybody.”
As the region climbed out of the recession, Petersen Ag Systems expanded its operations by becoming a dealership for GSI, the world’s largest manufacturer of farm storage systems. The company also serves as the third-largest dealership in the world for Lindsay Zimmatic Irrigation Systems, with a territory which covers a large part of the state and counties in Iowa and South Dakota. Recently, the company was named one of Lindsay’s top 10 dealerships in the country thanks to high marks for its sales and service.