A Drayton, N.D., farm implement business has recently acquired a company and factory in Italy and is now in operation as its North American headquarters.
On Oct. 31, Drayton-based Hamilton Systems Inc. bought the Fantini company situated in Medole, Italy. Fantini is a manufacturer of corn and sunflower harvesting headers and was established in 1968. Hamilton Systems had been the North American distributor of Fantini headers for about three years, selling its products in the United States and Canada, before buying the company.
According to Hamilton Systems co-owner Mark Hatloy, his business was approached by Fantini owner Alberto Fantini, the son of the founder of the company, who wanted to retire.
“They’ve got like 12 distributors around the world, and we were the shining star, I guess,” said Hatloy, adding he thought about the proposal all summer and made several trips to Italy before closing the deal.
The acquisition of the manufacturer makes Hamilton Systems, and Drayton, the North American distribution center for the Italian-made harvesters. The headers are usually brought into port in Montreal, Canada, by ship, then sent via train to Winnipeg, Manitoba. From there, they are sent by truck to Drayton, before finally being sold to farmers across the country, with the bulk of the sales happening in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Nebraska.
“We’ve got dealers in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Texas. We’ve sold quite a few sunflower heads into northern California,” said Hatloy, who mentioned that North American sales account for about 8% of the company’s total sales, with the remainder coming from overseas. This means, when a Fantini corn header is sold in Germany, Hamilton Systems stands to earn from it.
“I’m hoping there’s income,” said Hatloy, adding that he and his business partner, Hamilton Systems co-owner Ken Nordstrom, are no strangers to international work, having had factories in Canada for many years.
Those international sales pose some challenges for the rural North Dakota company, but also opportunities to learn as well.
“It’s definitely going to be an education,” Hatloy said. “I look forward to the challenge, learning some of the rules and regulations, European laws, learning how other countries do business and how other people farm, too.”
Hatloy said the majority of Fantini employees will stay at the Medole factory location, though some people chose to move on or retire.
“It’s a really good work force,” Hatloy said. “There’s some high-quality people there.”
Quality was what attracted Hatloy to Fantini in the first place. He said he has been traveling to farm shows nationally and internationally for 25 years. Fantini products caught his eye about 10 years ago. He said the price advantage over other vendors, as well as the four-year factory guarantee, are what caused him to follow the company.
“When the opportunity came to get the North American distributorship, I jumped on that,” he said.
Despite long ago having joined the ranks of international businesses and very recently increasing its worldwide presence, Hamilton Systems has kept a low profile.
“We’ve been kind of a silent company here in rural North Dakota,” Hatloy said. “People would be surprised.”