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Flint Equipment acquires metro Atlanta holdings

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

ALBANY, Ga. -- When the 100 or so employees at the six METRAC Industrial Equipment Co. locations left work Friday afternoon, the businesses were just as they'd been for, in some cases, the past 30 years.

When those same employees got to work Monday morning, everything from the signs on the front of the buildings to store literature to equipment logos said Flint Equipment Co.

The weekend changeover marked the completion of a long-in-the-works deal that saw Albany-based Flint Equipment purchase Atlanta-based METRAC holdings in Atlanta, Braselton, Adairsville, Grovetown, Macon and Columbus. The deal, according to Flint President and CEO Chris Cannon has the "potential to increase Flint Equipment's current market one and a half to two times."

"We intentionally drug our feet on this deal for a long time while we went through significant due diligence," Cannon, who bought Flint in 2001, said Tuesday. "We wanted to make sure it was a good fit for our company. Our objective has always been to expand into contiguous markets, and this latest acquisition links our South Georgia, Florida and Alabama markets with our markets in the Carolinas.

"Our people went in there at the close of business Friday, and Monday morning the METRAC locations opened as Flint Equipment Co. That's a testament to our folks going in and doing what had to be done (to make the necessary changes). I'd like to think we've got the process down now."

Flintco, which also has Flint Equipment holdings in Albany; Aynor, S.C.; Cuthbert; Dothan, Ala.; Perry, Fla.; Simpsonville, S.C.; Tallahassee, Fla.; Troy, Ala.; and West Columbia, S.C., is also the parent company for eight Flint Power Systems branches and Albany Tractor Co., which includes 10 locations. The company sells and services John Deere construction, industrial and agricultural equipment.

METRAC's history started in metro Atlanta in 1967, where founder Gene Gibson built the company into Deere's top national dealership. He sold the dealership in 1972 to Bob Cruikshank, who in the 1980s expanded his company's footprint outside Atlanta to Augusta, Columbus, Macon and Rome. By the year 2000, the company had built new stores in Braselton and Adairsville.

Cannon said most of METRAC's employees were retained in the changeover to Flint holdings.

"We kept most of the management team and most of the sales force at the (six) dealerships in place," he said. "We did hire a seasoned manager to run the Macon operation, and what we call back office work falls under our holding company, so it will be done out of our Albany offices.

"METRAC employed about 150 during good times and was at around 100 right now. Most of those people will maintain their jobs."

With the purchase of the former METRAC locations, Flintco now controls Deere sales in most of Georgia. Under Cannon, Flintco has expanded to include holdings throughout Georgia and into Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and the Caribbean. But the company is not necessarily done expanding.

"We have in our minds the proper size our company needs to be to survive these competitive times while meeting our customers' demands for great service at the best possible prices," Cannon said. "We don't necessarily want to be a big business, but we want to have a big footprint in the region.

"We like to grow, and as opportunities occur, we'll continue to look at them. We feel even in a tough economy like we're in now, a business can survive if it's run right and structured right."

Some have suggested that the Atlanta acquisitions could mean a strategic corporate move to that area for Flint. Cannon says, however, it's not going to happen.

"We have strong relationships here in Albany," he said. "I grew up here, and I plan to stay here. This is where we are, and this is where we're going to be."