Washington Tractor, a company formed from the merger of four John Deere dealerships in Washington state, will open a parts/sales/service store later this summer at the former site of Courtesy Used Cars on Viking Way.

This is the “national name on a small footprint” that Poulsbo City Councilman Ed Stern said earlier was coming to the major thoroughfare: Deere is a Fortune 500 company and Washington Tractor is the largest John Deere organization in the state, employing more than 150 people at seven locations.

The former Courtesy Used Cars building is about 2,400 square feet on an acre site, according to property owner John Hern of Courtesy Ford.

Hern said Washington Tractor is one of many steps to come in the economic revitalization of the once vibrant Auto Row, which was hurt by the exodus of Poulsbo RV and a drop in auto sales. Meanwhile, he and other commercial owners continue to try and lure other big businesses to the thoroughfare.

“We’re in a good position,” Hern said of Viking Way. “With the improvements that have been made (to Viking Way), this is an excellent place for a grocery/drug store or a box store of some type. There’s a lot of interest. The infrastructure is already here, a prospective developer won’t have to pay for that.”

Hern, one of the three largest commercial property owners on the thoroughfare, said he thinks Viking Way is suitable for a Safeway with a gas station, or a QFC. He said a so-called big box store has expressed interest in Viking Way, but he doesn’t expect that to happen until the economy improves.

“This is one of the last commercial places in the city until Poulsbo expands,” Hern said. “Growth has to come here in the future.”

Back to Washington Tractor: There will be a lot more to this site than just tractors. John Deere manufactures compact tractors, harvesters, riding mowers, seeders, shredders, sprayers and tillers. This is high-tech stuff. Some machines have GPS and are self-propelled, and have a kind of OnStar system for tractors that can notify the service department when there’s a service need.

The Poulsbo site will also provide parts, sales and service for products made by AerWay, AgriMetal, Alamo, Ariens, Bush Hog, Demco, Frontier, Honda and Stihl. The diversity of products includes augers, chain saws and water pumps.

Washington Tractor President/CEO Jim Hale said the Poulsbo site will employ “a half dozen” fulltime employees. He said Poulsbo is a good location: There are a lot of John Deere products in use in Kitsap County. Customers include cities and counties.

“Service and parts will be a big deal here,” he said.

The partners are Hale; Rich Hirai, general manager; Cody Hodge, technology; and Max Smith, sales manager. They merged their companies to form Washington Tractor: Barnett Implement, Sumner Tractor, North Washington Implement, and Liberty Farm and Lawn. Washington Tractor has stores in Aberdeen, Chehalis, Ellensburg, Lynden, Olympia, Quincy and Sumner.

The partners’ companies had a combined 154 years of service when they merged. The softer side of the business: They support breast cancer awareness campaigns, provide ag scholarships, and, they say, pay family wages.

Through Washington Tractor, local high school graduates can apply for John Deere TECH at Walla Walla Community College. Prospective employees can earn AA degrees leading to careers in the company in such fields as engine diagnosis and repair, harvesting and planting equipment, hydraulics, and precision farming.

North Kitsap Herald Editor Richard Walker can be reached at rwalker@northkitsapherald.com or 360-779-4464.