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Blanchard CAT Aims to See Small Businesses Succeed

Cat is there for a one-man operation in Aiken, S.C.

Mon December 22, 2014 - Southeast Edition
Eric Olson

Caterpillar equipment can be found on job sites all over the world, being used by some of the largest contractors.

But by offering quality products, parts and service, Caterpillar, in collaboration with its local dealerships, also helps its smaller customers achieve success, too.

A perfect illustration of that is a one-man operation in Aiken, S.C. Tommy Hibbitts does land clearing and site preparation for residential homebuilders in the Aiken area through his company, Hibbitts Land Excavation.

Fortuitously for Hibbitts, when he started his business in 2002, it was just before the housing boom kicked in across the country. But when the recession turned the market upside down just a few years later, he struggled to keep his enterprise afloat.

Lending a Helping Hand

Today, as the housing market continues to rebound, Hibbitts is not only still in business, but going strong. And, in no small measure, he has Cat and Blanchard Machinery to thank for helping him along the way.

Blanchard, a South Carolina Cat dealer, is based in Columbia with locations all across the Palmetto State.

When Hibbitts decided to open his own company, it was Caterpillar and Blanchard that helped get it going by offering start-up support through Cat Financial. Then, they saw to it that he obtained the right equipment for his needs and helped him get his equipment paid off as efficiently as possible.

A Dream Achieved

Hibbitts got his first experience in clearing and grading years ago while working for another contractor after getting laid off from a Savannah River plant. Later, he was called back to work at the plant and stayed there for six more years.

But, he explained, his heart was always set on running his own clearing business.

“About two years before I finally went out on my own I bought a little tractor and a dump truck and did a few things on the side and it just started to develop that I began to get busier and busier,” Hibbitts said. “People wanted me to do more work so I just decided it was time to go out on my own even though I didn’t really have the money to do so. Blanchard and Cat Financial, though, were willing to take a chance on me and it worked out well.”

Hibbitts added he firmly believes that helping hand is what has helped him stay in business for 12 years.

“As a result, I have never bought another piece of machinery that was not a Caterpillar and have not dealt with anyone but Blanchard,” Hibbitts said. “I have demoed other machines, but I always go right back to Caterpillar because you just can’t beat them.”

The first Cat machine he purchased was a 933 track loader in 2002. Now Hibbitts has two track hoes, a back hoe, a D4 dozer, a skid steer loader and two brand-new Cat CT660 tri-axle dump trucks.

Cat CT660s Are Quality Trucks

Hibbitts likes all his equipment, but he loves these new Cat dump trucks.

“I just think they are awesome,” Hibbitts said. “The ride is very smooth and comfortable, and they will tote the load with no problem. But the power and the comfort are what make these trucks so great.”

Hibbitts knew he wanted new Cat trucks two years ago, but he cautiously decided to take some time to think about the purchase.

He called John Spires at Blanchard Truck Centers, a division of Blanchard Machinery, and told him about his interest. Spires handles truck sales for the CT660, Caterpillar’s best on-highway truck.

“At that time, Tommy said that he wanted a Cat yellow tri-axle dump truck, but I didn’t have one in my inventory,” Spires said. “I continued to talk with him in the spring of 2013 about a truck I did have in stock, a red tri-axle dump truck and Tommy decided that he would buy it. About eight months later, though, he called me and said that he had settled for the red one but really wanted one that was Cat yellow. So we ordered a yellow one and shortly after that we started talking about his getting another new truck.”

Hibbitts wanted a black CT660 to pull a Lowboy trailer and a dump trailer, so this past summer he took delivery of one, as well as a pristine Eager Beaver Lowboy trailer to pull behind that truck.

“He seems to be pretty happy with both and hopefully we’ll be able to continue our business together for a long time,” Spires said.

A Prudent Businessman

Back during the housing surge, Hibbitts had several people working for him busily clearing new home sites. As the deteriorating economy in late 2008 made things tough on him, though, it was Hibbitts’ prudent money management, in part due to working with Cat and Blanchard, which kept the lights on at his business.

“Yeah, I have seen a lot of people come and go in this business and I sure didn’t want to be one of them,” he said. “When the downturn hit I had 10 guys working for me and then every year since then I had to let guys go because the work just wasn’t there. Fortunately for me most of my equipment was already paid for. What I have now, with the exception of one backhoe, is all new — there is nothing else that I had in 2008.”

That is just as much a testament to the hard work that Hibbitts has applied to get new projects in the last six years as it is to the improving housing market.

And he is exactly the kind of hard-charging, no-nonsense small businessman to whom Blanchard Machinery is determined to see succeed, no matter what the economy is like.

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