Three leaders who have impacted the rental industry worldwide were selected by the American Rental Association (ARA) as the newest inductees into the Rental Hall of Fame. Bill Begley, Tom Hawthorne and the late James Keenan will be formally inducted during the keynote session on Feb. 12 at The Rental Show in Las Vegas.
Begley began his rental industry career in 1963 when he purchased his first store in Dublin, Ireland, with Alan Pilkington. They developed a strong reputation for their business, so much that the company, Hire-All, became synonymous with quality service around Ireland. The original business offered tools and equipment for rent until a trip to what’s now The Rental Show convinced them to convert the business to party/catering and leisure. The business, Hire-All Event and Party, is currently the largest operation of catering and leisure in Ireland.
Begley is credited with opening the eyes of those in Ireland to the rental concept, with a vision and a business sense ahead of its time for the industry. He achieved his success and recognition in the rental industry through hard work, a professional attitude, a willingness to learn and implement new ideas, and membership in the American Rental Association. The company joined ARA in 1973. Begley also was a member of the Hire Association of Europe and a founding member of the Equipment Hire Association of Ireland.
Hawthorne’s career began in 1950 when he joined his father at Los Angeles Tractor and Equipment Co., a construction equipment rental sales business.
In 1956, the company was awarded the Caterpillar dealership in San Diego and became Hawthorne Machinery Co. The Hawthornes immediately saw a need for contractors to rent equipment and, in 1970, they started a separate division specifically for this purpose, Hawthorne Rent-It Service. The division’s subsequent success in the rental business led Caterpillar to create what is now known as The CAT Rental Store. Those within the Caterpillar organization and dealer network often refer to Hawthorne as the “father” of the CAT rental business.
Today, Hawthorne is chairman of the board for Hawthorne Machinery Co. and oversees its eight divisions. Each division provides specialized services to customers working in a wide variety of fields.
Hawthorne is actively involved in public service and government affairs. He has received many awards for his outstanding contributions to the construction industry, dedication to youth activities and his active role in local and civic affairs.
For 2007, Hawthorne Rent-It Service was No. 38 on the Rental Equipment Register’s ranking of the top rental companies in North America. The company has been a member of ARA since 1985.
Keenan was chairman of the board for Keenan’s Rental Service in Omaha, Neb., from 1959 to 2000. He was both influential and instrumental in the formation of today’s ARA.
During the two years before Keenan became ARA president in 1973, he visited rental businesses in 45 states and several Canadian provinces as a way to recruit new members and promote what became the focus of his presidency: image. That included the rental service image, inventory image and public image, and it led to the creation of what was then called the ARA President’s Image Building Award program. These awards were introduced in December 1973 to honor members who built a new store or remodeled an existing one. Now known as the President’s Image awards, they are still presented today.
Keenan also stressed communication, especially when it came to ARA’s magazine Rental Age (which is now Rental Management). He asked for member input on whether the magazine should begin accepting paid advertising to defray some of the publishing costs and allow for magazine improvements. The first paid ads appeared in the January-February 1974 issue of Rental Age.
During his first term as president, Keenan created an ARA long-range planning committee. He also promoted the idea that all rental businesses should display and follow a rental code of ethics. In addition, he was instrumental in securing the land where the ARA headquarters is located in Moline, Ill.
Keenan served as president of the Rental Equipment Industry Foundation (REIF), now known as the ARA Foundation, for 10 years in the 1970s and 1980s. In recognition of his service, the foundation’s highest honor to recognize its contributors, the James L. Keenan Commemorative Award, was established last year and presented for the first time during The Rental Show in 2007.
Keenan passed away in 2004 at age 93.
The American Rental Association created the Rental Hall of Fame in 2000 to foster an appreciation of the historical development of the rental industry and the leaders who have made the industry what it is today. Each year, nominations are accepted to recognize individuals who have made a substantial impact on the industry at the national and/or international level.
The induction ceremony is held during the keynote session at The Rental Show, with the 2008 ceremony set for Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.
The American Rental Association is an international trade association for the owners of equipment rental businesses and the manufacturers and suppliers of construction/industrial, general tool and party/event rental equipment. ARA members, which include more than 7,500 rental businesses and 1,100 manufacturers and suppliers, are located in every U.S. state, every Canadian province and more than 30 countries worldwide. Now in its sixth decade of operation, ARA is the source for information, advocacy, business development tools, education and training, networking and marketplace opportunities for the rental equipment industry throughout the world.
The Rental Show is owned and managed by the American Rental Association.
For more information, visit www.ARArental.org.