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A merger for MinnValley

By Staff | Jan 26, 2020

Nick Hager, the general manager of the newly formed Minn- Valley Mutual Insurance Company, is pictured outside the former headquarters of the South Central Mutual Insurance Company. The building is being totally remodeled and will be the home for the new company. In the meantime, they are working out of the office of the former Kelso & Shelby Farmers Mutual Insurance Company in Amboy.

There is a new name in the farm mutual insurance company business world.

However, while the name is new, the company itself can trace its roots back to 1883.

South Central Mutual Insurance Company of Blue Earth and Kelso & Shelby Farmers Mutual Insurance Company of Amboy, have merged into a new company.

Its name is MinnValley Mutual Insurance Company.

“The merger was effective on Jan. 1,” says Nick Hager, general manager of both the two former companies and will be the manager of the new one. “We think this merger is going to be good for everyone our policy holders, our communities and the farmers we serve.”

The merger has created the third largest township mutual insurance company in Minnesota.

Hager explains how the township mutual insurance companies came to be.

“Back in the 1800s, small farms were coming into existence around southern Minnesota,” he says. “And those small farmers could not get insurance from most of the large insurance companies. So, they formed their own.”

Many of those small insurance companies were named after the township where they were formed.

And then, these small township mutuals started to combine. For instance, Kelso & Shelby Farmers Mutual in Amboy was named after Kelso Township in Sibley County, and Shelby Township in Blue Earth County, which surrounds Amboy. The two small township mutuals merged in 2007.

“The new MinnValley Mutual Insurance Company is the result of mergers over the years of seven original township mutual insurance companies,” Hager says. “They are Barber Farmers Mutual, Blue Earth Mutual, Foster Farmers Mutual, Des Moines German Mutual Fire & Lightning Insurance Co. of Jackson & Martin Counties, Jackson County Mutual Fire & Lightening Insurance Co., Kelso Farmers Mutual and Shelby Farmers Mutual.”

And, since the oldest of all these, the Kelso Farmers Mutual, was chartered in 1883, the newly formed company can actually trace its roots back 137 years.

There still are around 80 mutual insurance companies in Minnesota, more than any other state, but Hager says there has been some confusion over the years about the two former insurance businesses, and now the new one.

“Basically, we are an insurance company, and not an insurance agency,” he says. “We don’t sell insurance from our office, rather through local independent insurance agencies. But we do the premium billing, collecting, and if there is a claim it is our adjustor who goes to the site.”

Various insurance agencies in the southern Minnesota area sell insurance policies for MinnValley, he adds. These are ones such as: First Insurance Agency, Lindell Insurance, Minn-Iowa Insurance and Tim Nelson Insurance all in Blue Earth; Garber Insurance and Wells Insurance in Wells, First National in Winnebago, JA Insurance in Frost, Rick Goemann Insurance in Kiester, Bricelyn Insurance in Bricelyn, Marketing Link Insurance in Amboy, Loonan Insurance in Easton, and others.

Another misconception can be that they only sell to farmers.

“Our policy holders have always been a high concentration of farmers, but we do have other homeowners as well,” Hager says. “But, our niche market is certainly farmers.”

Hager explains that the mutual insurance company is limited as to what kinds of insurance it can sell.

“Back when they first started in the 1800s, and up to pre-1970s, it was mainly fire,” he says. “Now we still have certain state mandated ‘named perils’ we can cover, like fire, water damage, sewer, theft, vandalism.”

The newly formed MinnValley Mutual Insurance Company will be housed in the former South Central Mutual Insurance building in Blue Earth.

But, not yet. For now the business is all located in the Kelso & Shelby office building in Amboy.

“We decided we would do remodeling work in the Blue Earth building,” Hager says. “And it is extensive enough that we felt we could not stay there while the work is going on.”

They are adding some office space and rearranging some of the former layout. The remodeling includes both the main floor and the lower level.

“We wanted to make the space more functional,” Hager says. “But we are also doing a lot of technology upgrades, as well.”

The company has six full time employees and is adding one more to make the total seven. That new one is an adjuster/inspector who will start in March.

Currently there is the general manager, two underwriters, an installment billing office person, a loss control coordinator and an accounting and claims office person.

Hager says the loss control coordinator works remotely from her home in Bemidji. She used to work in Blue Earth until she and her family moved up north.

Hager says what sets MinnValley apart from some other insurance companies is customer service.

“We know our customers pretty well,” he says. “And they know us. We serve a wide variety of farmers all kinds and sizes, from the hobby farm to the corporate farm, and a lot in between.”

And, they do it over a wide area their customers are spread out over a 20 county area of southern Minnesota.

“We go over east to Austin and Albert Lea, north to Hutchinson, west to Worthington,” Hager says. “We are sort of along the I-90 and Highway 169 corridors.”

Actually, they serve some of their customers even farther away.

“If one of our policy holders owns a cabin way up north, for instance, but lives in our service area, we can cover that other property as well,” Hager explains. “And we have several of those policies in place.”

The general manager also says they are known for speedy claims adjusting.

“There has been some times where we have an adjustor at a fire even before the fire trucks have left,” Hager says. “Not real often, but it does happen.”

Hager stresses the new merger and creation of MinnValley Mutual Insurance Company was not done out of necessities, but rather out of creating a strategy for the future.

“However, we are not going to forget the past either,” he explains. “We definitely want to remember our roots and maintain our core values.”