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Previously failing Sioux Falls company makes comeback

SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- A farm equipment manufacturer in Sioux Falls that previously cut more than 100 jobs is now seeing a comeback. Raven Industries executives welcomed rising share prices Tuesday after a financial report Monday showed overall sale...

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SIOUX FALLS (AP) - A farm equipment manufacturer in Sioux Falls that previously cut more than 100 jobs is now seeing a comeback.

Raven Industries executives welcomed rising share prices Tuesday after a financial report Monday showed overall sales for fourth quarter of fiscal 2017 up $69 million from the same time in 2016, the Argus Leader reported.

The report credited the improvement to a resurgence in the company's applied technology division, with gains in farm equipment sales domestically and internationally.

"We still have a long way to go," CEO Dan Rykhus said. "The conditions were very different when we reached our peak several years ago."

Raven surged a few years ago with record corn and soybean prices with big-ticket equipment purchases, but the company had to cut over jobs in 2015 when the agriculture sector slowed.

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With the company seeing rising share prices, the gains are still not on pace with its previous era of skyrocketing grain values.

Rykhus said that in order to adapt to the current levels of confidence in the agriculture industry, Raven had to move away from contract manufacturing for other companies to focus on its own products. The CEO said he sees opportunity to grow in international markets, but farm equipment demand should remain subdued.

"The fundamental ag market is not going to be our friend in calendar (year 2017), and yet there is a growing necessity for fleet replacements and upgrades," he said.

Aerostar, the division of Raven that makes balloons for commercial and industrial use, dipped in sales in the fourth quarter. But Rhykus said Aerostar's chemical application technology called direct injection is "poised for growth this year."

"We are optimistic," he said. "We have weathered some challenging conditions in the recent past."

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