Corporron Acres of Schulenburg, Texas, is celebrating their 20th anniversary of registering purebred Santa Gertrudis cattle. Prior to that, with the help of his father-in-law, Jim Corporron got about 20 years of what he calls on-the-job training with commercial cattle.
Corporron currently runs approximately 250 cows in Lavaca county, midway between Houston and San Antonio. About half of those registered Santa Gertrudis females are being bred to Hereford bulls.
Corporron’s cattle comprised the overall grand champion pen of heifers at this year’s San Antonio Stock Show. A panel of 13 judges made the selection. The five 26-month-old Santa Gertrudis x Hereford females with Angus calves at side sold for $5,700 each. Now in its 24th year, the contest and subsequent sale are proven gauges of trends in the cattle industry.
He is a past president of Santa Gertrudis Breeders International, serving a two-year term starting in 2003. He co-founded the Bluebonnet Sale held in Hallettsville, Texas, each spring since 2002 and is a long-time partner in the Tri-Star Sale at Briggs Ranch each fall. The Mid-Coast Santa Gertrudis Association awarded him “Breeder of the Year” in 2011.
The Corporrons didn’t transition from commercial to registered cattle until after he retired in 1995 at the age of 61. Corporron was a co-founder of Kent Electronics, which grew into multiple subsidiaries and emerged on the New York Stock Exchange in 1986. His business success had exceeded his youthful expectations, but required him to travel about 50% of every year. He was eager to spend more time with his wife, Dolores, and their family. “Dolores had some things she wanted to do, even though that, too, meant more travel. But it turned out it was exactly the right thing to do. We had some really great times before she got sick,” said Corporron. Dolores died in January 2009, two-plus years after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. They were married 54 years.
Corporron Acres shares its marketing and website with Dos Bros Ranch. The name “Dos Bros” was coined to stand for “two brothers,” in this case Corporron’s twin sons, Randy and Rodney. Rodney’s family took over ownership of Dos Bros after Randy and his family started Hidden Antler Ranch, with locations near LaGrange and Hallettsville, Texas. Hidden Antler Ranch is dedicated to breeding and selling trophy deer. Rodney is actively involved in Corporron Acres. His son, Connor, 22, recently finished his second year at Blinn College and is getting on-the-job training at both Hidden Antler Ranch and the Corporron/Dos Bros cattle operations.
The family’s longevity in the cattle business, according to the elder Corporron, is due in part to selecting a low-maintenance, highly productive breed. He knew, as a “gentleman rancher”, that he and Dolores would always be splitting their time between Houston and the ranch. Even when the herd grew to nearly 400, circa 2008, they’ve never had more than two outside employees. His business background taught him to hire good people and then let them do their jobs. Jessie Mendel has been with Corporron Acres for 21 years and has the title of operations manager. Primo Gonzalez, their herdsman, has been there 15 years. “There’s no way we could have done all this without them on our team,” said Corporron.
Corporron Acres sells cattle both private treaty and at a number of select purebred and all-breed consignment sales. Because demand has been outpacing supply, he also buys 20-30 purebred females throughout the year to replenish his cattle numbers. Their performance during recent drought conditions reinforced his belief in Santa Gertrudis. "They will thrive under less than desirable conditions and adapt to a wide range of environments,” he said. “Perhaps most important right now, they excel in crossbreeding programs. Their genetics are very complementary to the popular English breeds."
The herd includes genetics from Briggs Ranches, Wendt Ranches, Harris Farms and Grandview Farms, just to name a few and these represent more than 100 years combined breeding of top Santa Gertrudis cattle. Some of Corporron’s first cattle came from George “Red” Novak, of nearby Moravia, Texas, in Lavaca County and the 2S Ranch in Schulenburg. Lavaca, Fayette and Gonzales counties are consistently among the top three counties in Texas based on number of beef cows, which is certainly helpful to Corporron’s bull sales.
The ranch now includes the homestead where Dolores grew up. Her grandfather was a Czech immigrant who bought land six miles south of Schulenburg in the late 1800s. He donated a corner of it for a one-room schoolhouse that operated from 1914-1946. Dolores’s father, Alfred Pargac, was one of the first students and Dolores was one of the last. Typically around 30 students, from first to seventh-graders, shared the room and teacher. The short walk to school came with a price: the teacher roomed in Dolores’s house throughout the school week.
Corporron was the only child of a single mother. They lived on his grandparents’ farm in the Ammansville community 15 miles north of Schulenburg until he was in seventh grade, when they moved into Schulenburg so his mother could get a job. He supported himself by working after school in a television repair shop.
How he was able to retire at the age of 61 is one of those great American success stories.
Corporron joined the Air Force after he graduated in 1953. Standardized tests showed he had an aptitude for electronics. He was sent to Keesler Air Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, for specialized training. He and Dolores married in June 1954. Then he was assigned to McDill Air Base in Tampa, Florida, where he worked in radar surveillance to detect any threat from Cuba and the Castro regime. In September of 1956 the Corporrons welcomed identical twin sons, Randy and Rodney. Upon his discharge from the service the family moved to Houston. He found a job at another TV and radio repair shop and in the evenings attended Madison Tech-nical School on the GI Bill.
In 1958, a former colleague recommended him as an outside sales associate for Sterling Electronics, headquartered in Houston. He had no actual sales experience, but was told the people skills he’d exhibited picking up and delivering televisions in housewives’ homes was a good start. In May 1966 the twins got a baby sister, Diane. At Sterling, he climbed the ladder from sales to vice president of distribution.
The year 1973 provided two milestones which would greatly impact all their lives. First, 125 acres adjacent to Dolores’s family homestead became available. They bought the land, stocked it with a few cows and started commuting from Houston to Schulenburg most weekends.
In November of 1973, Morrie Abramson, his immediate supervisor at Sterling, challenged Corporron to quit the job that was making his land payments, among other things, and partner in their own distribution business. They went to their boss together to turn in their resignations and simultaneously inquire about buying Sterling’s dealer distribution division.
The bulk of their new business, called Kent Electronics, was replacement parts for television sets and radios. But integrated circuitry was coming to the forefront, the prices of consumer electronics were falling and TV sets did not break down as often as they once did.
So, in 1977 they refocused and began selling components and equipment to the oil services industry. The company grew until the mid-‘80s, when the energy market collapsed seemingly overnight and took most of their business with it. Their survival strategy was to switch to a narrow field with steady demand: passive electronic components like cables and the inter-connectors, capacitors and resistors, which control energy flow within electronic equipment.
They had to cultivate a whole new group of customers and were soon involved in contract manufacturing as well as distribution. “We were delivering components to Rod Canion, a co-founder of Compaq, when he was building prototype computers in his garage,” said Corporron.
According to an article in The New York Times, “(Canion) had the unlikely notion that he could compete with the mighty International Business Ma-chines Corp. by producing a clone of the original IBM PC. Compaq's first parts order from Kent in 1983, was secured by Canion's personal credit card.”
“Fortunately for us, we grew right along with them,” recalled Corporron.
Kent Electronics attracted additional major businesses as customers, like Cisco and Halliburton, and created three more subsidiaries as they grew. Eventually, they employed approximately 1,200 people. They went from private to public ownership in 1986, issuing IPOs in June ‘86, July ’87, September ’88 and May ’91. Both of Corporron’s sons worked for Kent’s manufacturing subsidiary, K-TEC Electronics. Randy was president and Rodney was operations manager for K-TEC. Younger sister Diane, after earning a degree in business administration and marketing from Texas A&M University, was hired as a sales account manager at K-TEC as well. The twin brothers started their own contract manufacturing venture, RTRON, in 1997.
Of course, when Corporron retired from Kent he never completely stopped working. He loves the business side of the cattle business and he’s more than optimistic about Corporron Acres today. Based on his experience, there’s never been a better time to be in the Santa Gertrudis business.
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