With housing developments sprouting up throughout Florida, the staff at Southern Equipment and Machinery has adapted and changed the company’s focus over the past few years.
While its new venture has taken the company into the world of construction equipment, it has deep roots in agriculture.
In 1944, it was founded as a John Deere agricultural center in Palmetto, FL. The current ownership group, of which Gary Coffman is managing partner, bought the company in 1988 and, less than a decade later, began its expansion.
The company purchased a dealership in Plant City, FL, that represented John Deere agricultural, lawn and garden equipment and skid steers in 1996 and a dealership in Lutz that handled John Deere agricultural and lawn and garden equipment in 1999.
By the turn of the century, Southern Equipment expanded its offerings to include John Deere skid steers, pull-behind scrapers and large dirt-moving tractors at all three locations.
Another shift in focus came in 2003, when it took on the JCB line, with which Southern Equipment covers Florida’s west coast from Citrus County to Collier County and inland to Lake County.
“We recognized the change in the market from agricultural to housing developments and also had to shift our focus,” Coffman said. “We capture all phases of the market from the farmers to the developers to the home owners. There is still some heavy solid commercial agricultural around, but many fewer customers.”
In 2004, Southern Equipment was named as JCB’s fastest growing dealer.
The manufacturer’s expansion has led Southern Equipment into a new era.
“We are still looking at other lines that cover niche markets in our area. With JCB buying out Vibromax, that will fill out one gap we need to cover,” Coffman said. “We see our future growth through evolution.”
In addition to the JCB line and John Deere scrapers, tractors and skid steers, Southern Equipment also offers Reynolds scrapers, Rome disc plows and AMCO disc harrows.
Because of the shift in the company’s focus, it has had to reinvent its service department.
“We are well into the process of separating our service department into consumer and construction. We have already added several road service trucks and will continue to add more in the near future,” Coffman said.
But even as the company grows, Coffman wants to remain focused on his customers.
“At heart, we are very service-oriented and will be there to service our customers,” he said. “Because of our size, we can be very close to our customers. We will step up to the plate when our customers need us.”
Work is already underway on a new aspect of the company requested by its customers — a rental fleet.
“It will be fully up and running by the end of the first quarter of 2006,” he said. “We took a survey of our customers to determine their needs so we could put equipment into the fleet that they need.”
The company employs approximately 80 people at its three branches and plans on expanding to a fourth location in Charlotte or Lee county in the near future.
Among the key players in the company are: Matt Hayes, sales manager; Dan Inglima, Lutz branch manager; Mark Gulick, Palmetto branch manager; Scott Coffman, Plant City branch manager; and Steve Childers, director of operations and product support manager.
For more information, call the Palmetto location at 941/722-3281, Plant City at 813/737-1660 or Lutz at 813/264-7075. CEG Staff