When James Gregory Poole Sr. and his uncle, William Lewis Gregory, founded an equipment dealership in Raleigh, N.C., in 1951, one of the manufacturers they aligned themselves with was Caterpillar. More than 60 years later, that relationship remains firmly in place: Gregory Poole Equipment Company is the Cat construction equipment dealer for eastern North Carolina.
In the 1950s Gregory Poole Equipment Company specialized in sales and service of heavy construction and materials handling equipment. By the late 1960s, they had added an industrial division.
Now run by J. Gregory Poole III, president, CEO and third-generation family owner, the company employs more than 850 people at 22 locations, where they provide sales, rental, parts and service for construction, agriculture, forestry, lift systems, floor cleaning, marine power, on-highway transportation, compressed air and electric power generation equipment to the eastern parts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
As the company continued to expand over the decades, they partnered with Advance Machine Co. in 1984 to provide cleaning equipment to commercial and industrial customers. That same decade, they went into the paving business with Cat.
“We sold equipment and did well,” recalled Ben Bradsher, vice president and account manager.
Paving the Way for the Future
By the early 2000s, due to changes in the industry, Gregory Poole joined Carolina CAT in Charlotte and Blanchard Machinery Inc.
in South Carolina to purchase Arrow Equipment Co., a full-service equipment distributor specializing in asphalt paving and related products.
“We sold Caterpillar and Allied equipment through Arrow,” Bradsher said. Branches were established in Greensboro, N.C., and Columbia, S.C.
A decade later, the partners came to a general consensus that each dealer could better serve customers independently. Arrow was dissolved in January 2012.
“It was just too difficult to service customers in outlying areas,” Bradsher explained. “We have heavy construction branches closer to the customer.”
Now, Gregory Poole paving customers in 54 counties in eastern North Carolina are served through those branches, each of which has a paving technician.
“Our customers are very happy,” Bradsher reported. “They have much better uptime.”
They also have expert advice, due to a former Arrow sales representative Gregory Poole hired.
“Cam Crumpler has 15 years in the business,” Bradsher said. “The customers like him. So do the company’s sales staff he supports. Cam works with territory salesmen. He knows the product, its capabilities and its limitations. He talks about the technical aspects of the product. Paving is a specialized business, so it’s good to have a specialist on our team.”
As a full-service dealer with years of experience, Gregory Poole’s equipment inventory for the paving industry includes: asphalt pavers and rollers, small LeeBoy pavers, Rosco asphalt distributors and brooms, tack wagons and Weiler material transfer trucks.
“In this industry, equipment is replaced cyclically,” Bradsher explained. Most of our customers trade in their machinery between 5,000 and 7,000 hours, which equates to roughly every four to six years. The used market is very competitive.
“It’s even more competitive because, although Cat tends to be the most expensive equipment, it holds value better than other brands, so over its lifetime, it’s the least expensive, especially when taking into consideration service and downtime. Used Cat equipment is in demand.”
With the industry on an upswing, good equipment will continue to be in demand, whether it’s new or used.
“We saw a good year in paving equipment,” Bradsher stated. “The industry continues to grow; there’s always work to be done resurfacing highways. Paving is always needed. A lot of miles of highway still need to be rebuilt, renovated or rejuvenated.”
Cat is known for durable, reliable equipment. Bradsher said that’s due to their engineering, R&D, quality control and expertise.
“Cat is quality-oriented,” Bradsher stated. “But good equipment doesn’t stay good without proper maintenance. Dealer service is another hallmark of Cat. Nobody can match that.”
Today’s equipment is more technologically advanced, which often requires dealer maintenance.
“The equipment is all driven electronically,” Bradsher elaborated. “Automatic grade and slope control have taken the guesswork out and enabled contractors to produce a more consistent product, but it makes maintenance and diagnostics more complicated.”
While some of the bigger companies continue to perform a lot of their own routine preventive maintenance, Gregory Poole offers CSA contracts for customers who prefer to leave it to the experts.
“We do service at specified intervals: 250-500-1,000 hours,” Bradsher said. “We also do rebuilds and general repairs. Whatever type of service we provide, customers have a lot more information about how their equipment is performing, thanks to today’s technology. They also can diagnose problems much more quickly. That improves uptime and reduces trouble-shooting time — both of which save the customer money.”
It’s difficult to speculate on what technological advances may be in store over the next 60 years, but one thing won’t change at Gregory Poole: customer service.
“We’re extremely happy to be serving our customers,” Bradsher stated. “We cherish the business and will continue to do all we can to provide the best service in the industry.”