It took the dedication of four lifelong New Orleans residents and one of the world's fastest-growing equipment manufacturers, but equipment rental is alive and well right in downtown New Orleans, a block from the Superdome. On a 2-acre plot of land that had become a junk heap since Hurricane Katrina, Equipco's 16,500-square-feet, two-story facility was formally opened last month by entrepreneurs Donald Charbonnet, Wiggins Edrington, Shannon Fethke and Richard Edrington, as a full-line Terex dealership and equipment rental company.
The “fulfillment of a dream” as Charbonnet told the crowd at the grand opening ceremonies June 22, began four years ago when Charbonnet left Louisiana Rents and set out to open his own rental company, a desire that grew after Hurricane Katrina. Charbonnet, a full-blooded New Orleanian and 40-year veteran of the equipment rental business, wanted to help re-build his city and put together a team of partners who had similar visions of serving the city's contractor community.
Fethke had worked with Charbonnet at Louisiana Cat and the two joined forces. Wiggins Edrington, who, as an outside sales representative, had played a role in NationsRent's dramatic post-hurricane rescue efforts, joined with the two along with his brother Richard, also a rental veteran. After a search for a compatible manufacturer partner, the men hooked up with Terex, which after a number of meetings “around my kitchen table” as Charbonnet said, established a working relationship enabling Equipco to serve as a full-line, full-service Terex dealer within the city of New Orleans.
“It's a great group of entrepreneurs,” says Bob Isaman, president of Terex Construction. “My experience has been worldwide, if we can invest in entrepreneurs and people's dreams, that's the best investment you can make, you're not going to go wrong. They've got passion and they know the market. We can help them with finance, with IT, human resources, purchasing logistics and the mechanical pieces of the business. But the actual execution, you can't replicate the passion. It's either there, or it's not, and with these four, it is.”
If anybody who had seen the property when the Equipco team took possession of it last November, they'd have had a hard time believing the transformation to the modern, well-lit and freshly painted, clean and confident building and grounds on June 22. Last November, the gutted and ravaged building and property looked like most of New Orleans in the aftermath of the most destructive hurricane in U.S. history. The result of months of hard work, the birth of Equipco in New Orleans is part of the astounding rebirth developing in this devastated city.
Several hundred people attended the grand opening Friday, including members of the media, customers, family members of the partners and employees, Terex officials including Isaman, and City Councilman Oliver Thomas.
Location is important in any business, and Equipco's would appear to be a good one, a block from the Superdome in downtown New Orleans where the likelihood of significant construction and redevelopment work in the coming years makes the presence of the only full-line construction equipment dealership in the city of New Orleans well-received by the city's construction community. Equipco has the additional benefit of being locally owned and operated, unlike many of its competitors.
“As a result of Hurricane Katrina, we established Equipco in the heart of downtown New Orleans near the Superdome, a great point of distribution, so we can easily serve contractors in this market,” Charbonnet told the crowd at the grand opening. “We are proud to have the full range of time-tested, high-quality Terex Construction products in our offerings to help us with the business and the overall rebuilding effort of the region. I want to thank our customers who urged us to get back into the business and have equipment conveniently located to help them in the rebuilding of New Orleans. We took an older, hurricane-ravaged building, city and state property, an eyesore quite frankly and turned it into a pretty exciting new business.”
Charbonnet gave credit to a number of manufacturers. “From the very first meetings we had with Terex and other great manufacturers like Gehl and Bil-Jax and Wacker and Dynapac and Mi-T-M and more at my kitchen table months ago, they all saw the vision of what we could do with the right equipment, the right team and the right location. As they say around New Orleans, recover, rebuild, rebirth.”
During the grand opening ceremony, Terex donated a Terex site dumper to the city of New Orleans. City Councilman Thomas took possession of the site dumper presented by Terex.
“To have an $8.5 billion corporation partner with Don and his partners and local team, this represents the kind of confidence that we are looking for all over the world,” Councilman Thomas told the crowd. “Profit margin and return on investment are important in a business, but every discussion I had with this team of people, it was about being part of our recovery. That type of civic commitment, business commitment and spiritual commitment is the only thing that's going to help New Orleans be better than it was.”
“In addition to New Orleans and surrounding parishes getting access to fine Terex equipment, in the heart of the city, New Orleans and America get today four new entrepreneurs, people that want to build things, people that want to change the status quo, people that want to win,” said Isaman. “And although we may be underdogs for awhile, through hard work and listening to customer needs, I have no doubt that Equipco will go stronger and bigger. Donald, Shannon, Wiggins, Richard and their families follow in the footsteps of other entrepreneurs that built this city. You represent the spirit of this city and your commitment to be part of the solution to make New Orleans and the parishes surrounding it better than they were before is what it's all about.”