American Agricultural Laboratory
Kevin and Christine Grooms purchased Olsen’s Laboratory in McCook in 2007 with a commitment to build upon a reputation of quality soil analysis and fertilizer recommendations that had grown over more than 30 years. Renaming the business American Agricultural Laboratory, the couple invested time and money developing their services and products. Business became so good that by 2014 they had run out of workspace.
That is when the Grooms sought the assistance of Charlie McPherson, NBDC consultant at Mid Plains Community College’s north campus in North Platte. They met through the McCook Economic Development Corporation’s email promoting Building Blocks at the McCook Community College in October 2014.
“Christine and I were not available to attend, but did send our accounts manager, Ericka, as we knew we needed assistance writing a business plan,” says Kevin Grooms. “After Ericka’s experience at the seminar, we reached out to Charlie.”
Initially, the Grooms needed the business plan to apply for a Site and Building Development Fund grant through the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. “These funds significantly assisted our ability to obtain our new facility,” Grooms says. “Charlie was able to create a very eloquent business plan for us that we also used to apply for McCook Economic Development Corporation’s LB840 funds, as well as funding through the Small Business Administration’s 504 program and with the McCook National Bank and USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant. His work was instrumental in making our project feasible.”
Rather than build a new structure, the Grooms selected an existing building in McCook to remodel. The renovation took seven months. The ability to expand their business means the potential for more jobs and additional positive economic impact upon the community. Currently, American Agricultural Laboratory employs 15 people full time, five part time and three on a seasonal basis.
The Grooms are members of several international and national professional associations, including the National Hay Association, in which Christine serves in a leadership position; and the National Forage Testing Association, for which Kevin served as president in 2015.
They have committed to assisting other small business owners as industry advisors in the Integrated Agronomy Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. The laboratory also serves to educate young people and other businesses through an internship program, presentations to producers, cooperatives and independent agronomists—and through their local school system’s Agriculture Awareness Tours.
The Grooms’ business promotes entrepreneurship through the McCook Economic Development Corporation, the McCook Chamber of Commerce and by encouraging their employees to participate in the local Young Professionals Group. “We also contribute to the Future Farmers of America (FFA), 4-H and different colleges both financially and with tours of our laboratory,” Grooms says.
Christine Grooms says the services provided by McPherson and the NBDC have been an integral part of the laboratory’s success. “He was able to take the core of information we gave him and develop a wonderful business plan,” she says. “To be able to articulate our thoughts so well was awesome. I am confident we will be working with Charlie and NBDC for years to come.”