Volvo BL70 Makes Dream Home a Reality for Pensacola Builder

Mon June 07, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Dan Waddell

The construction industry in Pensacola, FL, is flourishing on the beach, by the bay and beside the bayous. Properties are springing up following the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Opal in 1995.

While that natural disaster offered a heaven-sent opportunity for property developers, there is another reason why the town’s construction market is so buoyant: the standard of life in Pensacola.

It is a place that marries the warm hospitality and sedate pace of life associated with the United State’s Deep South –– the Alabama state border is a short drive away –– with the temperate, sunny climate and sandy beaches more commonly connected with southern Florida.

It’s this sort of life that encouraged Ken Simpler to take on the most challenging project of his more than 30 years in the construction industry: building his and his wife’s dream home.

At 7,800 sq. ft., the house overlooks the luscious blue waters of the Bayou Texar and features four bedrooms, three bathrooms, kitchen, dining room, living room, games room, three-car garage, and even a room for Simpler’s fishing rods –– it’s some dream, and it requires the best machine.

To provide it, Simpler knew there was only one man he could trust: Bob Kent. The pair have known each other for almost a decade, and when Kent re-entered the rental business with Volvo CE Rents in April 2003, after a five-year hiatus, Simpler was one of the first to open an account.

“It’s all about service,” he said. “I used to rent equipment from Bob when he had his first store and I was a contractor. His service was always outstanding; nothing was too much trouble. So when he opened up again, I went straight there. Now his guys come round every week to check I’m okay.”

It was during such a visit that one of Kent’s outside salesmen, Marty, learned that Simpler was having trouble with his first choice of backhoe.

“You should try the Volvo backhoe,” Marty informed him, “it’s really good.”

Simpler had never used a Volvo before, but he decided to act on Marty’s advice and rented a BL70.

“Marty was right. It’s a piece of work,” he said. “When he kept telling me about it, I didn’t have much of an opinion about Volvo, to be honest. But now I’ve used it, I’m sold.

“I’ve dug several miles of ditches putting in pipes with it. The controls are real sensitive, they’re not sloppy or anything. The main challenge on this site is when you are real close to a house or a property line, when you don’t want to damage anything.

“The BL70 is perfect. It’s smooth and has a great feel to it,” he said. “If I were to get back into heavy construction, then I’d buy one.”

Simpler designed the house himself — in consultation with his wife, Sammie. He started work on it last April and has concentrated on it ever since.

“My wife won’t let me do much other construction work until I’ve finished this,” Simpler said with a smile.

He hopes to get it finished this spring, despite being held up for three months last summer by persistent rain. Somewhat conservatively, he estimates the property will be worth approximately $1.5 million when it’s completed.

On a recent visit, the structure of the house had been erected and work was progressing on excavating the driveway and drainage system. The BL70 had been in use for five weeks, for around eight hours a day.

“The only regret is not having the Volvo earlier,” he said.

The project is taking up almost all of Simpler’s time. When he has time to get away, he simply gets in his boat and goes fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. He’s even building a room with an icehouse in which to store his catch –– and a few cold beers for the next expedition.

Kent, who runs Volvo Rents, with his son Andrew and Dwayne Powell, is not surprised at Simpler’s satisfaction with the BL70.

“Most people around here are getting used to Volvos; their construction equipment is new to them. But customers who get hold of a piece of equipment like the BL70 are impressed; they are very reliable machines and they want to keep them,” said Kent.

(This article appears courtesy of “Volvo Spirit.”)