Editor and Publisher
John H. Walker
A little more than 64 years after William “Bill” Long founded the facility that would employ thousands of people over the years at 111 Fairview St., the buildings are being prepped for demolition.
Electric crews from the Town of Tarboro were on-hand Thursday afternoon, unhooking power cables so that crews inside could pull the nearly 150-foot piece of cable with a tractor.
“We heard these buildings are going to be torn down,” one of the workers was told.
“Yep. They’re getting them ready now,” he replied.
While electrical cable was being pulled in one building, fire extinguishers were gathered together by door openings in one building and row after row of 18-inch wide Mercury vapor lights lined the floor in another.
The facility, which was purchased by Rogers, Ark.-based Montana Tractors in November 2008, is still listed in that company’s name on the Edgecombe County tax rolls. Montana bought the operations for $14.1 million and now pays taxes on a property assessed at $1,399,979.
Once the buildings are torn down, $1,141,379 in assessed value goes away.
In the 1970s, Long Manufacturing Co. employed 1,100 workers in Tarboro and another 400 in Davenport, Iowa.
By 1980, with the plight of the American farmer in what looked to be a death spiral at the time, employment dropped to 750 and then, by the time four creditors filed a petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court asking that the company be placed in bankruptcy, the workforce was down to 400.
Long emerged from bankruptcy in 1987 and became Long Agribusiness and in 1998, was purchased by the Escorts Group of Faridabad, India. Escorts was a leading engineering conglomerate that focused on agrimachinery, construction and material handling equipment, railway equipment and automobile components.
Escorts dropped the Long name in favor of Farmtrac.
In January 2008, Farmtrac officials told employees the operation was being temporarily shut down.
Alton Cobb, Jr., vice president and CFO of Farmtrac North America, said employees were being sent home for two to three weeks “while we get some clarity” on the future of some 180 workers at the facility.
Prior to that, Montana’s name had begun to surface with regularity as the firm noted in January 2006 that it had purchased 80 acres of land in Tarboro. Also, Montana announced it had presented a letter of intent to purchase a minority stake in the company that owned 51 percent of Farmtrac.
In January 2009, Montana Tractors purchased Farmtrac for the aforementioned $14.1 million and in November 2010, Montana announced it was shuttering its Tarboro facility effective Dec. 24. The peak employment for the company in Tarboro is thought to be around 35 persons.