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That big tractor in Lula? Yep, it's made of foam
Shape Formation Inc. hard shell sprayer Adam Dover says the hardest area to spray was the wheels of a 20-by-9 Styrofoam tractor the Lula business built for a dealership in Minnesota. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

No, Jim Reid isn’t getting into selling or repairing tractors.

Though he’s had more than one person stop by his Lula company and ask: "What’s up with the big red tractor out back?"

The 20-foot-long, red tractor sitting out back at Shape Formation Inc., next door to Lula’s post office, has attracted a bit of attention.

"I get people stopping by all the time, saying ‘That’s made out of foam?’" said Reid, who is president and founder of the company. Reid said a married couple stopped by last week to ask him that very question.

"I said ‘Yes ma’am, it is.’ She reached over and slapped her husband on the arm and said ‘I told you it was made of foam.’" Reid said.

The 80 percent scale model of a Case 535 Quadtrac tractor is being built to order for Paul Matejcek, owner of Matejcek’s, a tractor company in Faribault, Minn., which bills itself as "The Big Red Tractor Place" on its Web site.

Reid said the tractor salesman even provided a model to use in making the foam tractor.

"We’ve actually got a model — they call it a toy, but it’s actually a $250 model of the tractor," Reid said. "The man who is ordering it actually sent us a scale model; the toy is really detailed."

Incidentally, the actual tractor runs upwards of $300,000 — in used condition.

Reid’s foam tractor may only be 80 percent of lifesize, but it’s still quite large in its own right. It’s 20 feet long and 9 feet tall and weighs an impressive two tons. Much of the weight is the steel structure that will be used to attach the tractor to a large sign pole, Reid said.

So how do you ship something that big and that heavy? Turns out you don’t.

Reid said Matejcek will bring a flat-bed truck down to Lula sometime this week to haul the foam tractor back up to Minnesota.

It’s not the first time Reid has gotten business out of state.

"Most of our business does come on the Internet. We do more out of state than we do in state," Reid said.

And the recession hasn’t put much of a dent in the niche business Reid started 20 years ago.

"We’ve been kind of busy. I’ve been kind of tickled with that," he said. "We’ve been fortunate to have business."

His business can range from models — right now he’s working on oversized honey buns and doughnuts for McKee Baking Co. — to signs and architectural projects. He’s even done props for 34 different movies.

"We’ve been here for 20 years, so we’ve done quite a few things," Reid said.

His company also has done more "ordinary" jobs like making custom packaging material. One recent project entailed doing a box for a company to ship its gourmet iced coffees — already brewed and chilled — on dry ice.

So how did Reid get into business making sometimes odd oversized models? After working for two of the three foam manufacturers located in Hall County, Reid said he recognized an opportunity.

"They weren’t pursuing the small stuff, artsy stuff. ... So I just had an opportunity to get into a niche market," he said.