Two decades after bringing a corn head from Italy to their Iowa farm, Denny and Darlene Bollig celebrate having the foresight to bring an innovative product to market that has grown today to become a family-owned, national company with tenured employees, loyal dealers, and committed customers. They never envisioned that their modest founding of Dragotec USA in 2001 would grow to become a national, industry-leading corn head brand.
Dragotec USA, the exclusive North American distributor of Olimac products, is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2021. Employing more than 30 team members and represented by 152 dealer locations, the renowned corn head distributor proudly remains family-owned.
In addition to operating their agribusiness, the Bolligs are farmers at heart. With roots tracing back to 1895, Denny followed his ancestor's footsteps by farming alongside his late father and brother near Fenton. This year, Denny and Darlene are proud to be transitioning the family farming reins to their sons, Derek, Devin, and Dustin.
Reflecting, Denny attributed challenging times to have led him to Drago. "We survived the farming crisis and ag depression of the '80s," he said. "The tough times challenged us to become more efficient."
While farming in the 1980s and the 1990s, Denny exercised his mechanical skills by building prototype seeding and tillage equipment for Concord Air Equipment, DMI, and CaseIH. These diversified connections later served as steppingstones propelling his business idea forward with a dealership model that came together quickly. First, however, a personal connection at Horsch Anderson in early 2000 would play a significant role in shifting Denny’s sights at international corn head solutions. Their business relationship and friendship with Kevin and Donna Anderson, farmers, and entrepreneurs, of Andover, South Dakota, provided Denny and Darlene a gateway into the European market and introduced them to Olimac’s products.
Impressed with the design and performance, Denny brought the first corn head from Italy to harvest corn on his Iowa farm in 2000. "While riding in the combine cab with Denny, the corn head performance was impressive, and it was the first time we have not had kernels bouncing off the corn head," reflected Darlene. "From that point on, there was no turning back."
With residue sizing gaining popularity in the United States, Denny decided to introduce Olimac's corn head to the United States market. Assuming his first set of corn heads and the founding of Dragotec USA in 2001, Denny began approaching potential equipment dealers the following year. The rest is history.
With three of the first committed dealers approaching 20-year anniversaries representing the Drago brand, the Bolligs are humbled and grateful to have brand integrity across the dealer network. "We strive to take good care of our people," stated Denny. "Several of our dealers have been with us since the beginning, which speaks volumes."
Denny acknowledged three of the most tenured dealers for their brand loyalty over the past two decades. In 2001, The Red Power Team became Drago’s first dealer, followed by Arnold’s Inc., and shortly thereafter, Butler Machinery Company joined the dealership network.
Spanning across the United States from Oregon to New York and south to Texas, Drago is currently represented nationally across 152 dealer locations. "In states that grow corn, you'll find the Drago," said Dustin Bollig, vice president, and director of sales and marketing.
Farmers are always looking for the best ways to improve profitability on their farms. So, there's value to farmers in having a dealer who is seeking profitable solutions for their farm. "We encourage farmers to thank their local Drago dealer for being independent thinkers and taking care of their customers," states Denny.
In the early 2000s, changing agricultural dynamics launched Drago even farther forward across the North American market. Traditionally, harvesting practices began later in the fall season to allow corn to dry down naturally in the field. However, the market's introduction of corn dryers allowed farmers to start harvesting corn earlier. With corn drying solutions gaining popularity across the farming community, farm management decisions began moving toward enhanced seed genetics for improved standability, such as BT corn. Additionally, the industry was experiencing changes in trash management best practices. With onset popularity for residue sizing, the availability of chopping corn heads to the market resulted in planting more corn-on-corn acres. As farmers continued to get bigger, the increase in corn acres demanded equipment to be more durable.
"The shift to corn-on-corn resulted in farmers evaluating the performance needs of their combine and corn head to do the job," Dustin explained. "Farmers need to get more value out of their equipment."
Sales and support go hand in hand when making equipment purchasing decisions. Drago offers a no-backorder guarantee, stating that if a customer cannot get a part while harvesting, both the part and shipping are free. "We have never failed to deliver a part on a down corn head during harvest," adds Denny.
Each unique piece that fell into place helped steer Drago to success – beginning with Denny's prudence to choose a focused partner with 67 years of experience manufacturing corn heads. "Olimac had the foresight for farming industry trends, including the onset of ethanol, high corn populations, and better seed genetics for strong stalks and traits," asserts Denny. "I tip my hat to Olimac for being a world leader in the international industry. They made Drago what it is today."
Olimac, owned by the Giuseppe (Joeseph) Carboni family, builds Drago corn heads and gears in Margarita, Italy, at a highly robotic, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.
After bringing its corn heads from Italy, Drago's role as the distributor is to adapt and enhance the product with components to meet the unique needs of the North American market. "We customize and modify the corn heads in the United States while providing support for our customers," states Dustin. Such components included offering various poly, precision solutions, including HeadSight (Header Height Control) and incremental attachments.
When Drago got its start in 2001, Denny and Darlene had an important decision to make as their modest business began to grow: Should they expand in Fenton or relocate the company to a metropolitan area with attractive tax incentives and talent? "We decided to keep the business where are our roots are," affirmed Denny. "Not only is farming our business, but it's our passion. Staying close to the farm helps us relate to the challenges and needs that our customers are facing, as we are facing the same ones on our farm."
Located in the middle of Bollig Farms', Dragotec can utilize the farm for research, testing, and product development. "The farm has been a great tool to work on research enhancements for product development to collaborate with Olimac," says Denny.
Today, Dragotec employs more than 30 team members. "Drago wants to see continued growth while adding more jobs to our rural community and beyond. We strive to be a company offering good, professional careers," said Derek Bollig, vice president of finance and operations. "We are proud to be a company that has built a reputation for loyalty across our dealers, customers, and tenured employees."
The Bollig family is humbled and grateful as they reflect in the rearview mirror of Drago's evolution over the past 20 years. "We look forward to continuing to take care of our team, dealers, and customers for the next 20 years – and counting," stated Denny.