GREENWOOD (AP) — Jack Johnson III says the most important thing his father taught him about business was to treat people fairly.

‘‘My father’s reputation as an honest person — a man of his word — is well, well known in Greenwood and the surrounding area,’’ he said.

And after a long career, Johnson, 57, is preparing to step down as president of the family business, previously known as Johnson Implement. Now it has taken on the name of Ayres-Delta Equipment Inc., which recently acquired the dealership.

Johnson says he probably will retire Aug. 1, ‘‘at least for a while,’’ and pursue other interests.

His brother, Parker, who was vice president and has worked at the business since 1973, now will be a sales representative, and he says he’s glad to be dealing with farmers one-on-one again. Now 55, Parker Johnson hopes to remain at least another 10 years before retiring.

‘‘When I was doing what I was doing, I couldn’t get out as much as I’d like to,’’ he said. ‘‘Doing this, I’ll be out all the time, and I really look forward to it.’’

Jack Johnson said the deal had been in the works for six or seven months. He talked to several neighboring dealers before settling on Ayres-Delta. The two businesses’ families have known each other for years, so it seemed like a good fit.

Danny Guthrie, who has been managing the Ayres-Delta dealership in Belzoni, now will run the Greenwood business as well. He will work out of Greenwood.

Johnson Implement had about 30 employees, and nearly all will remain, except for a couple in the office. There also won’t be big changes in the Case IH and Kubota product lines carried there.

John Williams will remain manager of the machine shop, and Henry McGlawn will remain service manager.

McGlawn started at the business in 1973 as a service technician, and Jack Johnson said he has a rare combination of technical knowledge and people skills.

‘‘He is very well thought of in this area,’’ Johnson said.

Guthrie, who has been selling farm equipment for 32 years, said he hopes he can eventually add more employees in Greenwood. Building a new building someday is another possibility, but that would be years down the road, he said.

‘‘We look at this as a great opportunity for us,’’ he said. Johnson’s grandfather, the first Jack Johnson, came to Greenwood in the 1920s as the International Harvester store manager. He bought that business and created Johnson Implement in 1939.

When he died in 1954, his son, Jack Johnson Jr., took over at the age of 28 and stayed until his retirement around 2000.

Jack Johnson III said he pretty much assumed he would follow his father and grandfather into the business. However, he added that it’s a very competitive business and has been challenging. Every year is different, depending on commodity prices, weather, insects and other factors.

‘‘A lot of farmers have thought it would be easy to run an equipment dealership and found out that it’s not,’’ he said. The business was first on Cotton Street, where it remained for about 20 years before moving to the current site on U.S. 82.

In 1989, when Landers Machine Shop closed, Johnson bought Landers’ equipment and hired its employees.

The Johnson machine shop was housed in the rear of its building until 1999, when they remodeled the building next door and moved the machine shop there. The service department also has expanded three times.

The equipment business has changed in many ways. In 1950, a Farmall tractor was $2,000, and Johnson remembers his father predicting that they would never sell another one. Now the average price for a tractor more than 100 horsepower is close to $150,000.

‘‘It’s just a lot different to run a business like this today than it was when my father was here,’’ he said. ‘‘He didn’t know how to turn a computer on, but he could figure mighty well in his head.’’

Johnson admits he’s no computer whiz either, but he said the business always has tried to keep up with advancements in the field, and employees are trained regularly.

‘‘Service of farm equipment and industrial equipment has come a long way,’’ he said. ‘‘You don’t just turn wrenches anymore; we use laptop computers to diagnose service problems, and all the equipment is high-tech now.’’



AP-CS-07-01-07 1414EDT

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