A Case compact track loader stands outside the main entrance of the Kingsport facility.
Kingsport lies nestled in the heart of a vibrant area in northeastern Tennessee, just a stone's throw from the Virginia border. The city is home to Eastman Chemical Co.'s corporate headquarters and East Tennessee State University, with the Bristol Motor Speedway and all associated businesses right up the road. Not long ago, after the university opened a pharmaceutical school, the construction of apartment buildings took off to accommodate the influx of students.
As the region's population and the economy grow, so does the demand for construction equipment — especially from contractors fulfilling utility and residential contracts in the many communities that dot the rolling landscape.
Case machinery is ideal for such jobs, and Contractor's Machinery Tri-Cities Inc. — the Case dealer serving Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City and their surrounding areas — recently moved from Johnson City to a new, larger home in Kingsport to better serve the expanding market.
Co-owner Doug Seaton inspects the Case lineup at the Kingsport facility.
"The shop is equipped with overhead cranes that we didn't have in our other facility," Doug Seaton, co-owner of the Kingsport branch, said in a recent interview. "The new facility is laid out better, with larger service bay doors, a larger machine work area and more space to stock parts — all in an effort to offer superior product support."
With the technicians on the floor and 90 percent parts availability, the shop can service about eight wheel loaders, excavators and dozers or 12 skid steers at a time.
"Of course, I like working with the people we've got in this facility very much," Seaton said. "They are very well-trained. They do their job well. They make my life easy."
Another thing that makes Seaton's life easy is the popularity of Case equipment.
"Case has been accepted well," he said. "The small contractors are what we focus on, and all the different communities around, they each have their own utility. Case machines have been a part of this geographic area for many years. And then, of course, there's been the expansion of the product line with new excavators, dozers, wheel loaders, the track loaders and the mini-excavators. The contractors like the products very much. They've proven themselves to be strong and reliable."
Contractor's Machinery Tri-Cities Inc. offers a full lineup of Case products.
Case mini-excavators have proven particularly useful to home builders who need to dig footers or short, shallow ditches for water lines and downspouts, Seaton said.
"They have actually taken over a lot of the old backhoe market because of their versatility and the fact that they are easy to move," he added.
Compact track loaders, too, have grown in popularity Seaton said — to the point that Contractor's Machinery sells very few tire machines anymore.
"Originally, everything was skid steers on tires," Seaton said. "That's what everybody used, but they came out with a track machine for traction and stability, and that's pretty much the market anymore."
In the rocky, mountainous terrain of northeastern Tennessee, a loader's rubber tracks are susceptible to cuts and abrasions, and over time, both users and dealers have learned to operate machines in a way that keeps them rolling.
"That's all part of an education," Seaton said.
Seaton's own education in construction equipment began in the late 1970s, when he began his career with a rental company. In 1985, he went to work for a dealer in Knoxville, where he spent 15 years. He came onboard at Contractor's Machinery in 2000, and today he co-owns the Kingsport facility with his partner, Billy Nash, who also owns the company's other facility in Knoxville.
"When you look at the mountains, the lakes, everything that is in this area, and the people in this area, the different towns and things, it's just a great place to work," Seaton said. "The geography is great, the people are great and it's easy to do business here."