Contractor supply and rental house, Stan Houston Equipment Company, Inc. of Sioux Falls, S.D., has thrived in a small market area many large rental companies would not consider. For more than 70 years, the company has covered a large, sparsely populated geographical territory that includes South Dakota and portions of Wyoming, Iowa and Minnesota.
Of its five locations, the headquarters is in the most populous area at 183,200 people, while its Watertown, S.D. branch serves a market of just north of 20,000 residents. “You can say we a big fish in a small pond,” says Larry Calmus, Outside Salesman for Stan Houston.
Stan Houston doesn’t have a rental lifting fleet in the tens-of-thousands like some national outlets, but, even so, the company’s impressive equipment inventory includes more than 100 telehandlers and 450 scissor lifts, many wearing the Genie® brand. With seven decades of experience, Stan Houston knows the market and how to stock for daily customer demand, as well as adjust the fleet for temporary demand spikes.
When a new Terex Utilities facility construction project was announced for Watertown, Calmus, with 30-plus years of field experience, knew what it would take to supply the contractors’ rental needs. “Coordination is key and critical to the success of fulfilling the equipment needs for a large-scale project in a small town,” Calmus offers. “From management and sales to service and trucking, everyone must be on the same page. It forces us to be on top of our game.”
The company worked a year in advance of the project’s start to make sure they were prepared to meet the project contractors’ materials, equipment and service needs. The sizeable Terex Utilities project site covers more than 61 acres for the building’s 356,000 ft2 footprint. It is estimated to take 54,000 labor hours to build the structure that includes 1,800 light fixtures, 255 miles of wire and 225,000 ft of conduit/cable.
Calmus knew during the height of construction approximately 50 pieces of lift equipment would be necessary to keep the trades working. This was more equipment than what the Watertown branch could handle alone and still serve the needs of its existing customer base.
“We just had to figure out how to shuffle equipment around,” Calmus explains. As luck would have it, a $600 million soybean processing plant job in Aberdeen, about 100 miles from Watertown, was ending, and Stan Houston had about 75 machines on site.
The independent rental company pulled in surplus equipment from the site and it’s Sioux Falls, Sioux City and Aberdeen branches to prepare for increased demand in Watertown. New Genie lift equipment was also added to the fleet. “We a progressive company and will buy what’s needed to fill customer need,” Calmus continues. “The owner purchased a 135-ft Genie articulated boom (a Genie ZX®-135/70 liftl) for the soybean processing plant project because there was a need.”
While Stan Houston pushes to ramp up its equipment inventory for special projects like the Terex Utilities construction, this effort is tempered to match the smaller market’s needs. “We do as much as we can, but there is a cap to new equipment purchases,” he adds.
Boots on the Ground
While Stan Houston may not have a national company’s fleet size, Calmus is adamant that the company is not beat on service. He attributes the company’s success in handling increased temporary equipment demand in a small market to having boots on the ground.
“We typically have to work harder to earn the trust of out-of-state contractors coming into the market for a large project,” Calmus says. “We usually hear, ‘We have an account with a national rental company.’ My response is, ‘We are different because we offer local service techs, local support and, in the case of the Terex Utilities project, a local store for faster response.”
Local support typically wins. “No matter how well equipment is built, it will need service at some point,” Calmus offers. “We are not afraid to add staff, and that’s what sets us apart.” This mentality also addresses the other side of the big project equation, continuing to provide the expected level of service for local customers, who will be around long after the project has ended.
The bottom line: Temporary large projects are a juggling act for companies like Stan Houston.
There’s a known end-date, and the company must find more work to keep the equipment and staff occupied. “Ideally, we will find another project. Today’s climate is a mix of a soft agriculture market and strong general construction economy, so we keep on pushing to find where the next big opportunity exists,” Calmus concludes.