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Tracy Frank, Published January 17 2014

Bobcat to roll out millionth loader

WEST FARGO - Six years after celebrating its 50th anniversary, Bobcat Co. is gearing up to hit another major milestone. The West Fargo-based company’s one millionth loader will roll of the assembly line sometime this summer.

“It’s a big deal for the company because no other manufacturer has done this and it’s just a testament to how important the Bobcat machine is in people’s lives,” said Jeff White, Bobcat spokesman. “It’s just been incredible the way it’s changed lives over the last 50 years.”

It all started with a three-wheeled loader engineered by brothers Cyril and Louis Keller to clean turkey manure out of barns. Melroe Manufacturing Co., which was founded in 1947 by Edward Gideon Melroe in Gwinner, N.D., hired the Kellers and began producing the loaders in 1958.

Then, in 1960 the company built the first true skid-steer loader with four-wheel drive and in 1962 the loaders were called Bobcats after the “tough, quick and agile” prairie animal, according to the company’s website.

Today, there are more than 900 Bobcat dealers in more than 100 countries with production facilities in Gwinner, Bismarck, Wahpeton, France, China and the Czech Republic.

Bobcat employs approximately 2,000 people in North Dakota, White said, adding that all loaders are produced in Gwinner.

In addition to skid steer loaders, compact track loaders, mini track loaders and all-wheel steer loaders, Bobcat also makes compact excavators, telehandlers, utility vehicles, and Toolcat utility work machines.

“Bobcat has been on the cutting edge of safety innovations that have become industry standards, performance innovations that have become industry standards,” White said. “The industry has followed Bobcat’s lead for the last 50 years.”

Josh Grinde of East Grand Forks, Minn., who owns Right Choice Electric, Inc., in Grand Forks, says his T650 loader and E35 compact excavator save his company time, workmen’s compensation claims, and they let his employees work in a comfortable environment.

“We can go so much faster with the Bobcat equipment,” he said. “They’re just great pieces of equipment and great assets to our company.”

Bobcat is also the market leader in attachments with more than 450 job-matched attachments and implements that allow the machines to be used for a variety of jobs from farming, construction, landscaping, and mining to lawn mowing, snow removal, and installing fence posts, White said.

“They can do just about anything,” he said.

Bobcat will unveil a special edition loader at CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2014, the industry’s largest tradeshow, in Las Vegas in March.

The company is also giving away a special edition loader and other prizes through its website and Facebook pages and celebratory events will occur throughout the year.

“This isn’t just about a millionth loader that will roll off of the production line, it’s about celebrating the milestone and everything that has built toward it over almost six decades,” said Laura Ness Owens, Bobcat Co. director of communication. “Thousands of North Dakotans have taken part in building a million Bobcat loaders that have shipped all over the world and changed the way people work. No other compact equipment manufacturer can claim that.”

South Korea-based Doosan Infracore purchased Bobcat in 2007.

Online: Bobcat's YouTube channel

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526