Dugan Hill, whose vision was the driving force in the development of Prime Equipment Co., which later merged with Rental Service Corp., heads the list of the next inductees into the American Rental Association’s Rental Hall of Fame. To be inducted along with Hill at The Rental Show next February will be Ed Malzahn, founder of trencher manufacturer Ditch Witch and widely acknowledged as the creator of the modern trencher; and the first woman president of ARA, Pam McKenney.
William “Dugan” Hill, along with a partner Jim Browder, acquired a small rental company known as Rent-It in 1962 for a few thousand dollars saved from an oil company job. Hill and Browder ran the company from a 10-foot by 20-foot shed, and by 1968 had expanded to four locations. In 1978, Hill sold Rent-It, then a 10-location outfit, to W.R. Grace Co., and Hill stayed on as president. When Hill retired in 1988, Grace Equipment was a $100 million operation with 67 locations and 850 employees, second in size in North America to Hertz Equipment Rental Corp. Grace was later sold to a French conglomerate, which changed the name to Prime.
Hill was widely admired for his leadership at Rent-It/Grace and participated in laying the foundation for the development of national rental companies. Hill was also well respected by people in the industry and to this day many rental people view Hill as a mentor who taught them about the rental business and inspired them to make rental a career.
Malzahn worked in a small machine shop where he developed the world’s first compact service-line trencher, twice named by Fortune magazine as “one of the 100 best American-made products in the world.” He formed Ditch Witch in his hometown of Perry, Okla., in 1955 and remains active with the company, still based in Perry and employing about one-fourth of the town’s inhabitants.
McKenney founded The Rent-All Shop in Columbia, S.C., in 1972 with her husband Joe, investing their life’s savings of $6,000. It eventually grew into a thriving five-location business. In 1997, McKenney became ARA’s first woman president, and during her tenure she worked with the ARA board to develop a new state association program to give states the financial resources to monitor and change laws affecting the industry in their states. At the time of her election, McKenney told RER she was proud to be the first woman ARA president, “but I’d like to be remembered for my actions rather than just for the fact that I’m a woman.”
McKenney was instrumental in creating the “Next Generation of Rental Owners” in 1992, led the revitalization of the ARA Foundation beginning in 2000, and developed and implemented the Rental Executive Advisory Program. She helped expand the scholarship program to include both university and community college scholarships.
ARA created the Rental Hall of Fame in 2000 to foster an appreciation of the historical development of the rental industry and the leaders who helped develop it.