Marking a key milestone in the merger of two Wisconsin-based cooperatives, Countryside members have voted "Yes" to confirm the merger between Landmark Services Cooperative and Countryside Cooperative.
Now that the merger has been approved, it will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. CST on March 1, 2021.
The new cooperative will serve more than 26,000 members, employ over 800 people (includes full-time, part-time and seasonal), and generate annual sales in excess of $600M. The combined organization will be headquartered in Cottage Grove, WI, and the cooperatives will continue to maintain operations and staff at multiple locations.
“The management team at Countryside is pleased that our member producers voted yes on the merger with Landmark Services Cooperative," says Countryside CEO Frank Brenner. “When I came to Countryside in 2014, I made the statement that by 2020, our cooperative would need to achieve $500M in sales to continue being a viable long-term business to serve our members while remaining profitable. The formation of this new company provides both cooperatives the size and scale needed to achieve this strategic objective to remain relevant well into the future.”
With an expanded geographical footprint covering Southern and West-Central Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, Eastern Iowa, and Eastern Minnesota, the new coop will offer benefits including innovative logistics opportunities, sharing of agronomy assets, and backup feed mill options.
"The board of directors feel positive about this decision to merge with a strong company like Landmark Services Cooperative. This decision allows Countryside to compete within the ag industry while being profitable and protecting our members’ equities," says Countryside Chairman John Creaser.
Landmark and Countryside chose each other as merger partners because they share many similarities and merging into a single cooperative was a natural fit. The cooperatives are tightly aligned with respect to their core businesses, have very similar cultures, care about the success of their members, and are driven by the same mission, vision, and values.
During the merger exploration process, Landmark and Countryside identified primary impact areas that include savings through procurement opportunities, safeguarding membership equities through capital asset management and rationalization, increased sales, and lower operating costs.
"For both cooperatives, this is an important chapter added to our histories of growth," says Landmark CEO Jim Dell. "We recognize that with any major change, there will be a lot of hard work, challenges that are met, and hurdles to clear along the way, but our members have the unwavering commitment of both boards and leadership teams that this merger will be a success."
The new cooperative will have a strong focus on becoming a leader in technology so it can streamline operations, enhance efficiencies, and improve the member experience. It will also have a greater ability to attract and retain talented employees via an increased investment in employee development and training.
"Joining the resources of two long-standing, successful cooperatives will increase our competitive advantage and drive value to our members and employees," says Landmark Chairman Jim Lange.
Both cooperatives have a long history of charitable contributions and recognize the importance of giving back to the community by supporting local organizations. That same commitment will be part of the new cooperative.
Continuity of leadership with both the CEO and the board of directors will play a critical role during the merger integration process. Dell will serve as the new cooperative's CEO, and he will work with Countryside CEO Frank Brenner to ensure that the unification is a success. Initially, the board will consist of 10 directors, composed of six directors from the Landmark region and four directors from the Countryside region. Eventually, the board will evolve to have a total of eight seats, with five directors from Landmark and three from Countryside.
"Landmark and Countryside are committed to helping our members, employees, and communities thrive," says Lange. "We owe it to our stakeholders to pursue opportunities that will strengthen their local coops, and we believe this merger will accomplish that and more."
Landmark Services Cooperative is a member-owned cooperative dedicated to providing customers with the highest quality products and services. For 85+ years, Landmark has provided farm-related products and services to its more than 11,000 members in southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and eastern Iowa. Employing more than 400 people (includes full-time, part-time and seasonal) and with sales in excess of $373 million, Landmark provides a customer service-oriented approach in the communities it serves. For more information, visit landmark.coop, or call 800-236-3276.
Countryside Cooperative is a member-owned cooperative committed to delivering positive customer service and exceptional value to its members in a financially responsible manner. Since 1907, Countryside has evolved into a full-service supply cooperative by way of partnerships and mergers. Serving more than 15,000 members in west-central Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota, Countryside employs over 400 people (includes full-time, part-time and seasonal) and generates sales in excess of $234 million. For more information, visit countrysidecoop.com, or call 715-672-8947.