Walking from room to room, Harold Cooper gleamed with pride as he shared the idea behind each room at the new Premier Ag headquarters on Seymour’s west side.
Cooper, the CEO of the regional fuel and agribusiness, spent a good part of Friday presenting tours to city officials, county officials, business leaders and members of the community at the headquarters at 811 W. Second St., behind the new Blue & Co. accounting office.
“We’re really proud of this building,” he told Mayor Craig Luedeman and Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. Executive Director Jim Plump during one of those tours.
The company was founded in 1927 and provides supplies and services in the agricultural and energy sectors, including liquid fuels, retail fuel, propane, seed, fertilizer, crop protection and some retail items. Operating divisions include Premier Ag and Premier Energy. The company serves a trade area that stretches from Indianapolis to Louisville and as far east as the Cincinnati area.
The firm, a farmer-owned cooperative of 3,000 members, operates fuel stations in Brownstown, Crothersville and Seymour, a pet store in Seymour and grain elevators in Brownstown and Cortland.
The company merged with Jackson-Jennings Co-Op in 2015 in a deal that created a $250 million company. The decision to relocate headquarters from Columbus came in 2016 and was made by because Seymour is a more centralized location.
The company employed 18 in Seymour before the move, but the $2 million dollar project will add about 22 jobs as the result of relocating some employees and hiring some new ones. Overall, the company employs 200.
The 15,000-square-foot, two-story brick building features a vintage fuel truck in the lobby and offices and conference rooms downstairs.
The upstairs includes an impressive fountain that is the centerpiece of the building. Falling water can be heard throughout the building. The upstairs also includes testing labs, offices, common areas, small work rooms and an executive conference room with a handmade Indiana cherry conference table.
“This was made by Isaac and Moses Manual in Brown County,” Cooper said, adding he was told the two spent 300 hours building it.
Luke Schnitker, an accounting manager in the crops division, said he thinks the agriculture section of the office takes visitors on a trip to the past but also shows them what they can expect to see the future of agriculture.
“Our office truly represents the past, present and future of agriculture,” he said. “It is important to honor our past. It keeps us humble and provides a lasting reminder on how far we have come in agriculture.”
The building also show a commitment to the community, he said.
The building features photography by local photographer Forrest Willey, many of them agriculture themed.
Some of the rooms are decorated with items employees built or partners donated, including the old-time fuel station in the fuel division.
As the company explored ides about furnishing the building, one thought was about where the company had come from and where it’s heading, Cooper said.
“We want to give a nod to our past, and there’s a lot of things to remember and embellish about our history of who we are,” he said.
The company has a farther reach than agriculture with its fuel and retail divisions.
“We also want to be appealing to those who aren’t a part of agriculture but need fuel and home heat,” Cooper said.
The goal was to use that combination to make an impression on visitors.
Many would consider that a job well done, Plump said.
“They utilized a lot of historical items that members had and their members donated and built,” he said. “Touches like that really set the place apart in addition to all the history they incorporated when they built the building.”
Cooper said the impression should be Premier Ag is a desirable partner focused on doing things the correct way.
“We really wanted to do something with this building where we are creating an impression on our visitors that this is a company doing more than they expected and they see a lot is going on,” he said. “We want people to understand we’re aggressively trying to seek our own goals and objectives that align with theirs and we’re making things work.”
Luedeman described the move to Seymour and construction of the headquarters as “huge for the city.”
“We never like to compete in inner Indiana, but at the same time, we welcome new growth here in Seymour,” he said.
Luedeman said the relocation helps solidify the approach the city makes when it tries to continue development and attract businesses. Having a number of headquarters in Seymour shows growth that could be desirable for other businesses.
“It allows us to say there are a lot of headquarters here and people need to look at Seymour to come here,” he said. “I think it shows we’re a rural community, but at the same time, we’re a growing community and a community that opens our doors and welcomes new business here.”
Plump said with each headquarters or new development, more people are coming to Seymour and Jackson County each day.
“It’s a really good thing when you see investments like this made,” he said.
The area where the headquarters was constructed was an undeveloped area until Premier Ag purchased it and Blue & Co. constructed an office.
Plump and Luedeman see the opportunity to create more development in the area.
“It’s a really good business park area where we can expect to see additional investments,” Plump said.
With the sound of water falling behind him, Cooper said the company will invest more in time in Jackson County through renovations and other upgrades.
“We’re investing back into seed stores here in this area,” he said.
The company will renovate the seed stores in Brownstown and Seymour.
“We’re going to be adding to our hog investments and some replacement investments in fuel,” Cooper said.