Hills Supply under new ownership

Frank Burkett and Mick Heiby partner to buy Hills Supply Inc.

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Hills Supply storefront
Dairy industry veterans Frank Burkett (left) and Mick Heiby have purchased Hills Supply Inc., a dairy supply company headquartered in Canal Fulton, Ohio. The previous owner, Dave Hill, died suddenly Dec. 1, 2016. (Submitted photo)

CANAL FULTON, Ohio — Stark County dairy farmer Frank Burkett and Hills Supply employee Mick Heiby have purchased Hills Supply Inc., the well-known dairy supply company founded in 1979.

The two partners completed their purchase of the company Nov. 1, 2018.

The announcement comes just shy of two years since the unexpected death of owner David Hill and his wife, Shin, Dec. 1, 2016. Hill’s mother, Dolores, who was also active in the company’s management, had died just two months prior to her son.

Hills Supply sells dairy equipment and supplies in Ohio and the surrounding states, with locations in Canal Fulton, Williamsfield, Circleville and St. Marys.

“Our dairy customers have never been more important than they have been the past two years,” said Heiby, who has been a member of the Hills Supply team since 2009, serving as a dairy hygiene specialist and account manager. “Eight hundred customers stuck with us and made it a viable business.”

“That’s who we owe everything to, the customers. They are the reason we do what we do. We’re partners with them.”

About the owners

Burkett is a fourth-generation dairyman and the managing partner of Clardale Farms in Stark County, Ohio, where they currently milk 695 head of Holstein cattle, raise replacements, and manage 900 acres of land for crop production. A close friend to David Hill, he has served as chairman of the Hills Supply transition team since Hill’s death.

He is also the current president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation.

Heiby was raised on a dairy farm in Mercer County, Ohio, and prior to joining Hills, he worked as a field representative for Milk Marketing, Inc. (now Dairy Farmers of America), was the farm inspection section head for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, and vice president of agricultural banking at National City Bank. He was also a partner in several dairy operations including Dalwood Farms, and still owns some dairy cattle and his family shows dairy heifers.

Time of change

Both new owners say the current difficulties facing the dairy industry may have made them think twice about their decision, but it was never a deterrent.

“Clearly, even prior to this, my commitment to the dairy industry, as a dairy farmer, and at the Ohio Farm Bureau, has been unwavering,” Burkett said. “Even with struggles and consolidation, I see this as an opportunity to make sure dairy farm customers still have competitive choices.”

“I’m glad to be a piece of that,” he added. “I really am.”

“Frank and I are both dairy producers at heart,” Heiby said.

Both partners said they plan to focus on technology upgrades to modernize the company, and focus on opportunities for improved internal efficiencies to be able to give customers a more competitive product.

“We do know that technology will lead the industry to next level, and we’re committed to training our people and bringing the technology to our dealership,” Heiby said.

“We know we have to change, we know we have to be a little different,” he added, “but that dairy customer, and partnering with them, is what we’re all about.”

Meet the owners

Hills Supply will host a series of meet and greet events in December where farmers can meet with the new owners, current staff and key vendors from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at each location. The dates and locations include:

  • Dec. 17, Hoss’s Family Steak & Sea House, 1948 Leesburg-Grove City Road, Grove City, Pennsylvania;
  • Dec. 18, Das Dutch Kitchen, 14278 East Lincolnway (U.S. Route 30), Dalton, Ohio;
  • Dec. 19, Deer Creek Lodge, 22300 State Park Road 20, Mount Sterling, Ohio;
  • Dec. 20, Romer’s Catering, 321 South Eastern Ave (state Route 118), St. Henry, Ohio;
  • Dec. 21, Kahle Farms, 9351 County Road I-15 Ottawa, Ohio.

Appetizers and refreshments will be served. All dairy producers are welcome to attend; RSVP via email to: Hannah@HillsSupply.com or call 330-854-5720.

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