Just a week prior to Jacob May’s 1997 graduation from UNC Charlotte, he and his father had an idea for a new business.
May Heavy Equip Rental and Sales would focus on renting heavy machinery to contractors in the Triad and Charlotte areas.
“In our area, there weren’t a whole lot of companies doing that,” he said.
In years past, May said companies would purchase the equipment they needed for a particular job and then either keep it in their fleet or resell it. But a decade ago, May noticed more and more contractors were looking to rent instead.
So, allowing just a weekend to celebrate his graduation, Jacob and Bert May started up the new business that Monday.
Heavy machinery wasn’t a new world for the May family. Bert had been selling equipment for 25 years and, as a result, Jacob had been around it his whole life.
But over the past couple of years, the company has stepped it up a notch and has taken on a grander feel.
“I feel like we’re becoming a well-groomed company,” Jacob May said. “With our experiences, both good and bad, we’re well ahead of the game.”
The big leap toward the future started with the hiring of Jim Bingham, who had been May’s general counsel, as the company’s CEO.
In the past year, May Heavy Equip selected GE Commercial Distribution Finance as its lender, which Bingham applauds as the “perfect fit” for the company given GE’s extensive experience in the industry. Furthermore, the company has doubled its sales force and recently opened up a second facility in Columbia, S.C. The company purchased 50 acres in Lexington last year, on which it plans to build a replacement to its current facility.
Expected to open by the start of 2010, the new location along Interstate 85 will have 12 to 14 bays in the shop. It will double the size of the current shop and triple the size of its office space. Bingham said it will finally be a proper physical representation of what has been going on behind the scenes at May Heavy Equip. In addition to the branches, the company has stationed rental and field service representatives in Virginia and Georgia to tend to customers in those parts of its coverage area. The company also has spread beyond the Southeast and has started to expand its overseas sales; its best markets are in Africa, Australia and Europe.
Bingham said the company is considering “other expansion possibilities in the Southeast” in the coming years.
Renting, Bingham said, is to a contractor’s advantage during an economic downturn. Given the carrying costs of debt service, insurance and taxes, “if you can outsource, it makes sense.” Not owning equipment means a contractor doesn’t have to have mechanics on staff and can rely on its dealer to fix the machines. To that end, May Heavy Equip offers services, including fleet service contracts and after-market alternatives to OEM parts, to contractors who have purchased their machines elsewhere.
Jacob May places a lion’s share of the company’s success on his employees, all of whom he handpicked to help achieve success.
“The equipment has never been hard for us to find. The expansion came with the hiring of good people,” he said.
Among the people leading the company’s efforts are COO Chuck McGirt, South Carolina General Manager Richie Ambrose, Sales Manager Rusty Smith and CFO Tom Fowler.
May Heavy Equip boasts a fleet of 300 machines. It includes a variety of large specialized machines like Caterpillar D8 bulldozers, 815 compactors or 621 pan scrapers that tend to be tough to find in rental fleets. It also includes an array of Volvo, Cat and Komatsu trucks, as well as Cat and Komatsu excavators.
As the company continues to grow, Jacob May said he will ensure it stays within its means.
“We’re not going to be the company that goes out there and speculates. We will really do the research and, as the need calls, grow appropriately,” he said. CEG Staff