Deer feed boosting feed mill
The Daily Leader
BOGUE CHITTO, Miss. (AP) - Another Lincoln County business is preparing to expand its operations and beat back the recession, continuing a six-month string of good news for the local industrial community.
Gatlin Corp. owner Jeff Gatlin is planning to increase the size of his subsidiary company, Gatlin Feed Mill, in a $1.2 million project that has the potential to create up to 10 new jobs.
And the reason? The mill produces a supplemental deer feed called A-RAK-A-TAK, which Gatlin’s team developed over the course of several years by testing it on different deer herds in the South and Midwest. The feed was originally designed as simply an attractant, but the testing showed it increased deer body size and antler mass.
Thanks largely to the deer feed, the expansion will see the addition of a 20,000 square-foot building and new manufacturing equipment at the mill and will be the largest economic development that area has experienced in several years.
The project is scheduled for completion by September.
“In 2009, we started distributing our products wholesale across south Mississippi, and that has increased to the point where manufacturing can’t keep up,” Gatlin said.
Gatlin Feed Mill, which the owner purchased from his father, Charles Gatlin, in 1987, produces a variety of wild game and livestock feed varieties, but it’s one particular brand that’s catching on with hunters around the South that is warranting the expansion.
The team has been shopping A-RAK-A-TAK around, offering samples at statewide and local events like last year’s Lincoln County Wildlife Expo. The feed’s popularity has grown, and it may grow a whole lot more in the coming months.
Gatlin recently signed an advertising deal with The Pursuit Channel, a hunting and outdoor network. Soon, ads for A-RAK-A-TAK will be broadcast to about 23 million people.
“If just 500,000 people would buy one bag of our feed, it would pay for the expansion,” Gatlin said.
The expansion of Gatlin Feed Mill into new markets with new products follows the same strategy Gatlin has always used.
He never dedicated his mother ship company, Gatlin Corp., located on U.S. Highway 84 in Brookhaven, to one specific product, so it’s made a variety of hydraulic, pneumatic and seal and packing products for industries and heavy equipment manufacturers like John Deere and Caterpillar for 25 years.
When the economic recession began dampening business for the feed mill, Gatlin turned to the same formula.
“Business got bad. It was tough around here for about 18 months,” he said.
“From the middle of 2008 to the end of 2009 was about as tough as it was when I started. Sales dropped off and we had to hunt a way to maintain our market. We’ve always manufactured and retailed out of the same door, so we decided to expand.”
The feed mill has always served as a distribution point for other companies’ products.
Noticing success with wildlife products, Gatlin made the gamble on A-RAK-A-TAK. It’s worked out well so far, and it could work a lot better. If it doesn’t, Gatlin Corp. will live on.
“Did I make a lot of money doing this? No. Is there and opportunity there? Yes,” he said. “We’ve put ourselves in a good position. If I were just a feed company, this wouldn’t work. If it works, it works. If it don’t, it won’t break me.”