Steve sits down with Rodney Denslow, the Facility Maintenance Manager for Tractor Supply Company to talk about logistics, career path, sustainability, workforce development, and much more. If you would like to meet more influential agribusiness leaders, visit us at Vitality in the Valley at HVCC on June 8th. Register Now
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Steve Melito: Hey, welcome to New York State Manufacturing Now, the podcast that’s powered by FuzeHub. I’m your host, Steve Melito. And today, we’re talking to Rodney Denslow, the facility maintenance manager at Tractor Supply in Frankfurt, New York. Rodney, welcome to the podcast.
Rodney Denslow: Hey. Thanks, Steve. Glad to be here.
Steve Melito: Great to have you here. Hey, Rodney, tell us about Tractor Supply in the Mohawk Valley. A lot of people know the company and the stores of course, but they might not know that you have such an important presence in the region.
Rodney Denslow: Absolutely. As you may remember, 2017 Tractor announced that they were coming to the Mohawk Valley. A lot of our core customers are in the northeast. Tractor Supply, like you said, everybody or most everybody’s familiar with our stores, but our core customer a lot of people think is farmers and ranchers. And we do have some stuff for them in the stores, but it’s more the pet owners and those stewards of the earth and the people that want to grow their own food. And that’s really taken off in the northeast, almost at a renaissance pace. So to support those people’s needs, tractor needed to move to the northeast. Frankfurt, New York was a perfect fit. There was more than one location in the area, but John and team at the IDA did a great job of convincing us that Frankfurt was the answer. And being a local guy myself, that worked.
Steve Melito: That’s great.
Rodney Denslow: That’s a big piece of it.
Steve Melito: Yeah, I can remember talking to John Piseck from the Herkimer IDA probably about five years ago about Tractor Supply, and here we are today.
Rodney Denslow: Yes, five years. John was a great partner as Jim Bono and the legislature. And right along, even as we were starting to break ground and we needed office space, John set us up with Karen down at Work and Solutions. She took care of us, gave us some office space, did some pre- screening. So it’s been a great relationship.
Steve Melito: Well, I’m glad to hear it. So, Rodney, tell us about your job as Facility Maintenance Manager. What are some of the things that you do, and what are you responsible for?
Rodney Denslow: So kind of unique, right? You hear Facility Maintenance Manager and there’s the obvious stuff. Primarily, I’m here to maintain a facility, the building and grounds, the five miles of conveyor, the 165, 170 lift trucks and the fleet of batteries with a crew of maintenance technicians and people that perform the various trades. But Tractor Supply, our mission and values, they give us the ability to wear many hats. So along with just facility maintenance and keeping the building looking good and safe and productive, I also deal with a lot of the business aspects for the local facility. So commodities in, deal with a lot of our corrugate and packing supplies, as well as sustainability and commodities out and marketing our stretch wrap and cardboard. At the end of the day, we’re a warehouse and I’m a maintenance guy, but it’s a people business. So every day is recruiting and developing people to be the best that they can be and just do what we can to take care of our people.
Steve Melito: That’s great. So let’s talk about careers a little bit. What has your career path been like? In other words, how did you get to be where you are now?
Rodney Denslow: It’s kind of an interesting question. If you’d have asked me 30 years ago if I was going to make a career out of logistics, Steve, I didn’t even know what logistics was. Actually, after college, I went back on the farm with my father up in Turin, New York, and it was in partnerships. And as family businesses go, you only get along for so many years. So it was a time for me to do something different, and I decided to give logistics a shot. I spent 22 years with another local retail distributor. In 2017 when I saw this hit the news that Tractor was coming, I was at a crossroads in my life. I was still enjoying what I was doing with this other company, but I was at a point I was getting ready to graduate with my master’s in business strategy. And I remember the morning watching that on the morning news, telling my wife that, ” Hey, Tractor Supply is coming to Frankfurt.” She’s like, ” Well, if that’s what you want to do.” And I’m like, ” Yeah, I think I’m ready for a change.”, The rest has been a fantastic ride. You’ll never hear me say anything negative about that other retailer. It was a great 22 years and I learned a lot. And I wouldn’t have the position that I’ve got if I hadn’t have been engaged with that company for as long as I was. I wouldn’t have my master’s degree if they didn’t have a tuition program that helped me get it at an affordable rate. And when you work at a large, fast- paced company like that, you learn about compliance and you learn about what’s right and you learn about taking care of people. And I was able to take that and my experience over to Tractor and from an agrarian family and living the agrarian lifestyle, Tractor Supply has been a great piece. Intrinsically, I find personal value in the company and what it means to the community. The little piece that I throw out in my elevator pitch is, prior to my brother and I, nobody in our lineage has ever punched a time clock. They’ve all been farmers and loggers and various earthen stewards with the exception of four or five one- room school teachers. But we’ve all been hands- on, been about growing food and taking care of animals. And Tractor Supply has been the right fit for that. Career- wise, we wear a lot of hats. Tractor’s a very lean company at the top. As I said, it gives you that opportunity to wear the hat you want to wear. Right now, one of my prides is helping out with the supply chain planning and working towards opening up the next building and taking what we’ve learned with Frankfurt and moving that to the new market.
Steve Melito: Oh, that’s fantastic. I’ll tell you, I don’t like to shop that much myself, but if there’s a weekend and I’m going to a store, it’s probably going to be Tractor Supply. It’s a different kind of place and it’s a lot of fun.
Rodney Denslow: And that’s exactly it, Steve. The footprint of that store is 16 to 20, 000 feet. And it’s ideal for somebody who wants to run in and grab something and get back out, but it’s also big enough you can spend an hour in there and research a project you got coming. It’s a nice mix.
Steve Melito: For sure. Whenever I go to a store or even when I drive by a manufacturing company these days, a machine shop, a warehouse, whatever, I see a help wanted sign, a lot of companies having a hard time finding workers. What are some of the things that Tractor Supply does to attract workforce talent?
Rodney Denslow: Believe it or not, almost four years in we’re still primarily organic growth, word of mouth. People that are there are trying to bring their friends and neighbors and family members in. We attend a lot of the local career fairs and job fairs, and we use the LinkedIn recruiter. And we try to fine tune for specialized positions, but the majority of our positions are organically filled, just word of mouth. Coming into COVID, we actually had about 2, 000 applications ahead. Obviously, COVID changed a lot of things, but we’re still doing okay with that organic growth.
Steve Melito: I’m glad to hear it. I remember, and I think it was last year that Tractor Supply gave a tour on Manufacturing Day. Were you a part of that?
Rodney Denslow: Actually, I worked with Cory Albrecht and set that up. I really like to let people know what we do and give that next generation a chance to see what we do. And the thing with logistics is we’ve got basically every skill set we can put to work in some aspect of our business. It’s just a great time to introduce it to the community, introduce it to the youth, and let everybody see what we do.
Steve Melito: That’s fantastic. Rodney, so last question. What else would you like our listeners, and their statewide, they’re probably in other states as well, what would you like them to know about your location in the Mohawk Valley, and what Tractor Supply is up to there?
Rodney Denslow: Well, at the Frankfurt facility, there’s a few things we do because I’m always looking at emerging technologies and things to make us more efficient. I like to vet out new technologies at Frankfurt. So we test out a lot of things in our local shop that will be implemented into the new buildings. It’s also important to know that we are a growth company and we’re opening up a new store about every four days. So that means there’s growth opportunity. So as we expand across the country, there’s room to take people up and out with us. And we’re always looking for those leaders that are looking to cut their teeth and come in, or people that aspire to be leaders that are willing to come in and work their way up. The growth is fantastic. The company is growing. We’re just trying to do good things for the community, take care of our people, and take care of our customers.
Steve Melito: Well, that is fantastic to hear. And Rodney, thanks so much for taking the time to be on New York State Manufacturing Now.
Rodney Denslow: Well, thanks for having me, Steve. Appreciate it.
Steve Melito: You bet. So hey, we’ve been talking to Rodney Denslow of Tractor Supply in Frankfurt, New York. And before we go, I’d like to tell you something that you might not know about the Mohawk Valley. It’s the site of an upcoming event called Vitality in the Valley, and you’re not going to want to miss it. Vitality in the Valley is the place for food and beverage manufacturing, agriculture, and the many industries that support them. Exhibitors can showcase their products and attendees can walk around, make a lot of connections, and hear from a lot of important speakers that day. It’s all happening on June 8th at Herkimer College in Herkimer, New York. If you’d like to attend, please go online today and register. The address is, and I’m going to give you the website here, it’s bit. ly/ vitality6- 8. That’s bit. ly/ vitality6-8. And if you didn’t get that link, don’t worry. Just email info@ fuzehub.com and let us know you’d like to register and I’ll probably reach out to you myself to get you on board. So on behalf of FuzeHub and New York State Manufacturing Now, this is Steve Melito signing off.