Wilco and Hazelnut Growers of Oregon (HGO) Board of Directors have both unanimously agreed to put a vote of merger between the two cooperatives before their respective members.
After the announcement to employees and letters to the membership earlier this month, Doug Hoffman, Wilco CEO, and Jeff Fox, HGO CEO, have held six member meetings throughout Oregon to present information about the merger and answer questions.
“Wilco’s historical success and ability to provide value to members is partially due to a diversity of business units. A merger with HGO is an opportunity for Wilco to add a member service that compliments the existing Agronomy, Farm Stores and Fuel Service business units,” said Doug Hoffman of Wilco.
Wilco is the largest agricultural supply cooperative in the Pacific Northwest and plans to combine current strengths with HGO to help develop a value-added marketing service for hazelnut growers. “If you’ve driven around the valley you’ve seen thousands of acres planted in new hazelnut trees. We’re pleased that Wilco has an opportunity to add more value to members as these trees come into production, and look forward to hearing from members as we prepare for the vote.,” says Hoffman.
Several years back, Wilco’s Board of Directors identified HGO has a potential good fit for a merger. However, it was Jeff Fox and HGO who reached out and called Doug nearly a year ago to bring up the idea of a merger. Since then, there have been countless conversations, financial and risk analysis and studies of the possible synergies if the two farmer owned cooperatives merged. This work led to a unanimous vote of approval by each company’s Board of Directors earlier in May.
“Our values and membership are a good fit. Wilco’s financial, administrative and Agronomy Center strengths could allow HGO to better serve the membership,” said Jeff Fox of HGO. The cooperative merger of HGO into Wilco provides the financial stability to build a new processing plant without slowing down the growth and investment in Wilco’s existing business units. Wilco also has administrative teams in areas like IT, Marketing, HR and Transportation that could benefit HGO.
While both company’s Boards and management teams believe the merger is good for the future of both cooperatives, it is up to the members to make the final decision. The membership vote is scheduled in Salem on June 7th. If the vote of merger passes, the two cooperatives would merge on August 1st.
“The Wilco team is here to add value and services to members. We’ll continue to look for opportunities like this to make Wilco a stronger company for our member-owners and look forward to the members giving us the final direction on June 7th,” said Hoffman.