Getting into Deere Gear; J.C. Watts Diversifies into Texas Tractor Dealerships

Article excerpt

Byline: Kara Rowland, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Former star quarterback, youth minister and four-term Oklahoma congressman J.C. Watts Jr. has a new credential to add to his resume: John Deere dealer.

Mr. Watts, through the J.C. Watts Cos. - an umbrella company that he formed upon leaving Congress in 2002 - last month acquired Mustang Equipment, an independent dealer of John Deere products with locations in San Antonio and Marble Falls, Texas.

"I've kind of grown up around the cattle business and hay hauling and farming, so the equipment business is not totally foreign to me," said Mr. Watts, whose hometown is Eufaula, Okla. "John Deere is a brand we all know."

Since his return to private life, Mr. Watts has assembled a team of Capitol Hill veterans and business executives to staff his parent company and his flagship business, the Watts Consulting Group, which lobbies on behalf of small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, trade groups, nonprofits and historically black colleges and universities.

The J.C. Watts Cos. also owns CLS Group, a construction, project-management and engineering company based in Oklahoma. Another subsidiary, HR Empowerment, provides work force diversity training.

"When you acquire a business, you want it to have three things," said Mr. Watts, 48, who lives in Fairfax with his wife, Frankie, son, Trey, 15, and daughters Julie, 16, and Jennifer, 21. "Good management, cash flow [and] you want there to be opportunity to grow."

Mr. Watts said Mustang Equipment, located in "great growth areas" of San Antonio and more rural Marble Falls, possessed these qualities.

"I think people are getting to where they are a little more inclined to kind of get out of the high-traffic areas, the suburban areas, and go outside of town, where they've got five to 10 acres of land, and so they need those smaller tractors, the zero-turn mowers and things like that," he said.

J.C. Watts Cos. employs just over a dozen people with about 50 other people employed through its subsidiaries. Last year, the company posted $25 million in revenue.

The former member of the House fits the profile of a John Deere dealer, Deere & Co. spokesman Ken Golden said.

"We have found J.C. to be a thorough and a strong business leader," Mr. Golden said. "He has experienced tremendous success in the past, and we anticipate his drive to excellence will make him a strong independent dealer of John Deere equipment. …