CEDAR Receives Governor's Coal Education Proclamation
April 17, 2013
CHARLESTON - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin honored the Coal Education Development and Resource of Southern West Virginia (CEDAR) with a Coal Education Proclamation, April 17. The proclamation was presented to Georgene Robertson, president of CEDAR, since 2001. The ceremony took place at 11:30 a.m., in the West Wing governor's reception room at the State Capitol. CEDAR board members, WV Coal Association members and Omar fourth grade students, proudly wearing mining hard hats honoring their coal miner family members, were present for the ceremony.
The Proclamation recognizes the importance of coal in West Virginia from fuel that powered the transformation of the United States during the Industrial Revolution to present day through economic development and diversification, resulting in new commercial, industrial, agricultural, public, residential and recreational facilities on land made available through coal mining.
CEDAR is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit corporation that works closely with school teachers and students in West Virginia and Kentucky. The groups’ mission is to facilitate the increase knowledge and understanding of the many benefits the coal industry provides in daily lives by providing financial resources and coal education materials to implement its study in the school curriculum. CEDAR works primarily with K-12 students in Mingo, Logan, Boone, McDowell and Wyoming counties and grants scholarships to attend Southern WV Community and Technical College. Robertson has been involved with CEDAR, since 1993, when she began working with the program in Kentucky.
“I became involved to tell the rest of the story,” Robertson said. “The media projects an ugly image of the coal industry and never shows the many benefits coal has on our daily lives.”
Sixty - three thousand West Virginia families depend on the coal industry for their livelihoods. The industry each year pays more than $3.4 billion in wages and generates more than $26 billion in total economic impact. Coal severance taxes pay for the construction of roads, bridges, hospitals and schools throughout the state and 98 percent of West Virginia’s electricity is generated by coal.
Tomblin has officially declared the last week of April (April 28 – May 4, 2013) “Coal Education Week in the Mountain State”.
Coal Education Week includes a Regional Coal Fair that will be held at the Harless Community Center, in Gilbert April 29 – May 3, a picnic/tour of the student projects Tuesday night, to recognize the winning students, with radio stations WXCC & WVOW interviewing student participants live. Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College is taping a television show with the winning students.
The Tug Valley Mining Institute will host their monthly dinner meeting, Thursday night, May 2, at the Harless Center with guest speaker, Frank Matras, Alpha VP of Operations.
Stacie Vaughn Hutton, a southeastern Ohio native and author of Shovelful of Sunshine, a children’s book about the strong coal mining family commitment, will be available all week for a book signing.
Pocahontas Land will have a coal tree exhibit on display and Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College’s Coal Academy will have an exhibit on display.
Everyone is invited to come out during this week and support our coal miners by visiting the projects on display at the Harless Community Center, in Gilbert. CEDAR educates students, teachers and parents about coal and its benefits through grant initiatives, coal educational fairs and scholarships.
For more information, contact Georgene Robertson, President of CEDAR of Southern West Virginia, 304/792-8433.
The CEDAR golf tournament will be May 14 & May 15, at The Twisted Gun Resort, for more information contact Bud Clapp, 304/324-2430.
Walker - Only North American Dealer with Cat Component Rebuild Center Certification
April 17, 2013
BELLE – A Component Rebuild Center CAT® Certification Plaque Presentation took place April 17, to honor Walker Machinery Co. The presentation was made by Jay Walton, Cat Indianapolis District Manager. It was followed by a pork roast, provided and cooked by Jason Huser Service Operations Representative from CAT.
In November, 2012, Walker’s CRC Product Support Manager Joe Green was assigned to start completing the Caterpillar Component Rebuild Center (CRC) Certification program, for 2013. Walker’s Charleston Service Operations Manager Alan Pugh assigned the task.
“Alan Pugh cautioned me on how difficult this project was going to be,” Green said. “He and I worked together for five months to get this project completed. He also supplied me with plenty of coaching and input to get us through the processes. To give you an idea of how hard this was to achieve, I once heard it called the “ISO 9000 certification on steroids!” by Greg Ingram, Walker’s CRC Shop Manager. We spent three full days with Caterpillar reviewing every corner of our CRC shop. Reports were reviewed, tools were inspected, & technicians were also interviewed. Caterpillar even measured the lumens on our shop lighting to make sure it passed specifications.”
This certification program focuses on the rebuild standards and processes that are in place throughout our CRC shop. Ten categories break down into 266 process standards. Out of the 266 process standards, the CRC must achieve 100 percent critical process compliance and 80 percent overall process compliance. Every process standard, both engine and powertrain, are reviewed and scored by Caterpillar® Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).These experts review each of the 266 standards plus Quality, Efficiency, Consistency, and Continuous improvement.
“In my opinion, there is no doubt that the Belle CRC shop is dedicated to Quality and Consistency,” Green said. “My role in this project was to take what our CRC had in place, blow the dust off the processes, and open the door for Caterpillar to recognize that we were indeed capable of achieving Caterpillar CRC Certification. Our technicians and administration did just that this year. We ALL pulled together and completed a very daunting task. I was very proud to have been a part of it.”
Once certification is achieved, the dealer must continue to improve on lower scored processes and report any progress to Caterpillar. The first four years all continuous improvement will be reviewed by Jason Huser, Walker’s Cat Service Operations Representative. After the fifth year, Caterpillar SMEs will return back to Walker’s CRC and complete another assessment. Currently there are only six Caterpillar dealers in the world CRC certified; of that six, Walker Machinery is the only dealer in North America CRC certified w/Caterpillar.
“This CRC certification has done a lot for Walker Machinery,” Green said. “It made us take a closer look at our current processes to make sure we are running as efficiently as possible. We must continue to follow the CRC certification guidelines to stay certified into the coming years. This will keep our Quality, Capacity and Image at its highest standards for our all of our customers.”
“Walker does not have the largest facility, the newest facility or all the latest tooling available,” Pugh said. “But by taking the team approach, we get the best results of anybody else in this line of business. Our employees’ team efforts and contributions made CRC Certification possible.”
Walker Machinery Now Selling Underground Mining Equipment
By George Hohmann
Daily Mail Business Editor
Charleston Daily Mail
Nov. 1, 2012
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Walker Machinery and its Kentucky cousin, Whayne Supply, are now selling and servicing Caterpillar-brand underground coal mining equipment.
Monty Boyd, who owns both Caterpillar dealerships, made the announcement Thursday at Walker's Belle headquarters.
"This is truly an historic event in the life of Walker Machinery and Whayne Supply, that we have become representatives for these Caterpillar products in the territory we serve," Boyd said.
Boyd bought Walker in March 2010 from the Walker family. Walker Machinery has about 700 employees. The company has sold Caterpillar heavy equipment in western West Virginia and southeastern Ohio for 59 years.
Whayne has about 1,400 employees. The company has been in business for 99 years. It is headquartered in Louisville, Ky. Boyd, a former Caterpillar employee, worked his way up at Whayne and eventually bought the company. Whayne is the Caterpillar dealer in 120 counties in Kentucky and 16 counties across southern Indiana.
Boyd announced Thursday that his companies have formed a new division, Whayne-Walker Underground Mining, to sell and service Caterpillar underground mining equipment. He said the new division started doing business Thursday with 38 employees. Some are former employees of Caterpillar who had worked for Bucyrus.
Boyd said he wants to hire 5 to 10 more people for the new division, including some people with technical skills, some support people and some product specialists. Interested individuals are encouraged to visit the employment section of Walker's website, www.walker-cat.com
Announcement of the new division is a direct result of Caterpillar's July 2011 purchase of Bucyrus International for $9 billion. Bucyrus, a major manufacturer of underground mining equipment, had purchased several underground mining equipment companies, including DBT Mining Machinery, Terex Mining, Marion, and Work Tools, prior to its decision to sell out to Caterpillar.
Boyd said Thursday's announcement took some time coming because Caterpillar had to decide whether to operate the underground equipment business as a separate entity or integrate it into the Caterpillar brand. Another decision was whether the equipment would be sold directly by the manufacturer, as Bucyrus had done, or through Caterpillar's established dealer network.
Once decisions were made to fold the equipment into the Caterpillar brand and sell it through Caterpillar's established dealer network, the focus shifted to making sure the dealers could provide the level of service customers expect, Boyd said.
Coal represents 65 to 70 percent of the revenue at both Walker and Whayne, Boyd said. Although coal production in the eastern United States is divided almost evenly between surface and underground mining, Caterpillar's traditional product line included equipment mainly used in surface mining.
Caterpillar now offers "the largest, broadest product line of any manufacturer throughout the entire world," Boyd said. "We've invested $9 billion in this business. We're committed to the mining industry. We're all in."
Boyd said he serves on Caterpillar's Global Mining Council, which consists of dealer-owners from throughout the world who help Caterpillar develop its mining business strategy.
Although coal has been under pressure from environmentalists and federal government agencies and has been hurt by relatively cheap natural gas, Boyd said the long-term outlook is good.
"Our markets are going to be stable and we're going to be mining coal for a long time into the future," he said. Boyd noted that his companies actually serve two mining markets - Central Appalachia and the Illinois Basin.
"Why invest in coal? It provides us a tremendous opportunity to serve that very stable industry we see going forward," he said. "We feel very confident that the U.S. economy will get back on track and we'll see an increase in electricity demand. As soon as we do, we'll see an increased demand for coal."
Boyd said all of the other fuels can't fill the need for energy. "Coal has to be part of our energy policy," he said.
"From a world standpoint, the world is growing and the world has clearly said their choice for energy generation is coal. All of the developing countries look at coal as their base for growth. Anything we do requires energy and the world thirst and need for energy grows" as population increases. "We see a very positive outlook for this area because we have a very abundant resource, and that is coal."
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said, "This is a great day for West Virginia, when Caterpillar -- a worldwide technology leader -- steps forward and has confidence in the coal industry."
The Whayne-Walker announcement was made in Belle, behind Walker's headquarters. The company had two huge tents set up. A giant continuous miner was set up inside and large Caterpillar bulldozers and trucks were stationed outside. The entrance was built like the opening of a drift mine.
More than 100 customers, potential customers, dignitaries and employees attended the event.
Contact writer George Hohmann at email@example.com or 304-348-4836.
Superstorm creates big business for large generators
Nov. 5, 2012
by George Hohmann
Daily Mail Business Editor
Charleston Daily Mail
Rodney Canterbury, Walker Machinery Power Systems Division General Manager, is shown beside a 400-kilowatt generator. Walker sells, rents and services these generators used to power convenience stores, gas stations, elevators and exhaust fans for underground mines, hospitals, nursing homes, wastewater treatment plants, water booster stations and cell phone towers.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - It's snowing outside, and branches snapping under the weight of the heavy, wet snowfall onto power lines cause the power to fail at a nursing home.
The nursing home staff calls Rodney Canterbury and his 22-person crew to help. Canterbury's team provides the nursing home with a generator. The patients don't have to be evacuated and everyone remains safe, warm and comfortable.It's a situation Canterbury and his crew encounter often.
"There's a personal satisfaction involved in that," Canterbury said. "That's what keeps our staff moving and motivated."
Canterbury is general manager of Walker Machinery's Power Systems Division, which, among other things, handles sales, rentals and service of large generators.
"We offer generator rentals to convenience stores and gas stations all the way through to powering small communities," Canterbury said. "We're powering the exhaust fans for underground mines and the elevators in the mines. We also provide generator rentals to hospitals, nursing homes, wastewater treatment plants, water booster stations and cell phone towers.
"We work very closely with the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Emergency Services in Charleston. We support and provide them with generators. When they get phone calls from around the state they will call us and we will coordinate the delivery, installation and fuel service for generators."
Widespread power outages caused by superstorm Sandy resulted in a spike in demand for generators. That translated into long hours for Canterbury's staff.
"We started receiving phone calls before the storm from customers wanting to be proactive and prepared," he said. "We sent out several generators between Thursday and Sunday prior to the storm. Then, as Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast, we started receiving numerous calls from as far away as Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.
"As West Virginia was affected by the snow, we started receiving calls from local customers. We've been providing generators to our local customers and local businesses since last Monday."
The company brought in generators from Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida and Kansas to meet the needs of local customers. Canterbury said Walker provided all of the services from freight and delivery to installation, if necessary.
"In an average month we rent 25 to 30 generators," Canterbury said. "During this storm we've sent out in excess of 60 generators in less than seven days.
"We've utilized four freight carriers and two local electrical contractors to provide delivery and installation. We provide 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week sales, rental and service to these customers."
Canterbury said there was a major difference between the June 29 derecho and superstorm Sandy.
"The derecho was here and now - the storm came, it hit, and people were without power immediately. People had no time to be proactive.
"With Sandy, there was an opportunity for people to be proactive, call in and reserve generators for their business."
Canterbury was asked what he tells his wife when he goes home with the headline news from his day at work. He thought carefully and replied, "The 'Oh, wow!' story is the dedication of my employees when, without power at home themselves, they are willing to stay and work around the clock to help customers get their power back on."
The generators Walker sells, rents and services are bigger than the small portable units some homeowners use. To illustrate the capabilities of its Caterpillar-brand equipment, Walker had a large generator on display.
"This is a 400-kilowatt generator, trailer mounted," Canterbury said. "It is a multi-voltage machine. It will provide between 120-volt single phase and 480-volt three-phase power. It has a fuel tank capacity to run the machine for 32 hours. It's in a sound-attenuated housing so you can hardly hear it."The model "is very popular for use in wastewater treatment plants and water pumping stations," Canterbury said."It would probably run 40 homes."
Contact writer George Hohmann at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4836.
Walker Engine Power in Spotlight
Aug. 8, 2012
Aug. 8 and 9, Walker Engine Power was filmed, by Simantel, for a video spot to be featured at CAT Mine Expo and DriveCat.com. Stay tuned for a link to the video.
Photos courtesy of Brad Zingre, of Caterpillar.
BELLE – Walker Machinery Company’s Engine Power Division is in the spotlight this week, and soon enough, the whole world will understand why.
Simantel, a marketing communications firm from Peoria, Illinois, shot videos for Caterpillar, Inc., Aug. 8 and 9, highlighting Walker Engine Power’s CT660 truck sales. According to Caterpillar On-Highway Industry Rep. Brad Zingre, there are a few reasons for the focus.
“Walker Machinery is the highest performing dealer to forecast in North America,” Zingre said,
Which was quite a feat, considering Walker was the second-lowest ranked in opportunity.
Zingre reflects back to the inception of the truck and the engagement of Walker in the business, from 2010. When Walker went into the truck business, a prospectus was developed - a path of profitability, based on a dealer’s opportunity. That business plan was created over a period of eight months, presented to Walker’s executive committee and Caterpillar representatives.
“They approved our plan and from that point on it was all hands on deck,” General Manager of Walker Engine Power Rodney Canterbury said.
When the staff is committed, Walker Machinery has built their reputation on not only selling a quality product, but providing professional product support after the sale.
The change in focus paid off. In the forecast from Caterpillar, Walker was given the challenge, based on their selling opportunity - 17,000 trucks in Walker’s territory - to sell four trucks. So far this year, 13 were sold.
The Walker video was suggested by Zingre to Cat’s marketing department. Based on Walker’s successful sales and a very good customer, Medford Trucking, Cat agreed to hire Simantel and come to West Virginia. The video will feature Walker’s Commercial and Truck Engine Product Support Manager Charlie Evans, a testimonial from Mechanic Timmy Young, and two customers: Medford and Articulated Services, Inc., focusing on truck application.
Zingre attributed Walker’s success to its engagement with and understanding of customers.
“I don’t think we’d have a TV crew here today if it wasn’t for the support of Rodney, Charlie, Rocky [Peck, a Walker salesman] and the truck division,” Zingre said. “There is very high level of engagement from the top of the Power Systems Division down. It’s very rare when you have a conversation about the truck business that 100 percent of the time the general manager is engaged.”
Canterbury countered giving credit to Zingre.
“He has been engaged with every deal and with us every step of the way. They have not always been pleasant conversations, but at the end of the day we get the job done, the customer is satisfied, caterpillar is satisfied and Walker is satisfied. Everyone is working together,” he said.
The video was featured at CAT Mine Expo and is on DriveCat.com.
Agency Launches Shale Gas Campaign
by George Hohmann
Daily Mail Business Editor
July 24, 2012
From left: Walker Machinery Company's Management Trainees Jeremy Schulte and Jacob Morris attended a press conference, July 24, at Walker Machinery Co.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy has launched "Shale Works for US," a campaign "to galvanize support" for the shale gas industry, said Karen Harbert, the institute's president and chief executive officer.
Harbert launched the campaign Tuesday at a press conference at Walker Machinery Co.'s training center in Belle.
"The prospect for energy self-reliance is before us — if we allow it," Harbert said. "In 2000, shale gas represented 2 percent of our natural gas production. In 2011, it was 34 percent. In 2015 it will be an estimated 43 percent."
Natural gas produced from shale formations in the United States "can put the community, put teachers back to work," Harbert said. "At West Virginia University, the unemployment rate for those with graduate degrees in geology is zero. That's a great story."
Walter Clark, general manager of Walker Machinery Co.'s equipment rental stores, said the company has a store in Parkersburg and is considering opening another on the Ohio River to serve the companies that work in the natural gas industry.
Walker Machinery has historically sold, serviced and rented heavy equipment mainly to the coal industry. Monty Boyd bought the Caterpillar equipment dealer in 2010. Walker currently has about 700 employees. The company has eight locations in West Virginia and one in Ohio.
In an interview in March, Boyd said Walker will continue to rely on the coal industry for a majority of its sales. But to help the company ride out the coal industry's ups and downs, Walker will pursue opportunities with businesses involved in the natural gas-rich shales, he said.
Boyd said those opportunities include:
Rebuilding the large diesel and natural gas-fired engines that transmission companies use to move natural gas through pipelines.
Selling earth-moving equipment to companies that build drilling pads.
Selling equipment to build roads in remote areas, to clear rights of way and to lay pipelines.
Boyd said in March — and Clark repeated on Tuesday — that by diversifying, Walker can retain its highly trained employees.
David Knuth, executive director of the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce, said at Tuesday's press conference there are seven pipeline companies currently operating in Marshall County.
"We have an abundance of employees from other states - from as far away as Oregon," he said. The influx of people is so great there aren't any available places to stay, he said. Property owners can rent a space for a 35-foot camper and a pickup truck for $800 a month, he said.
Several factories are under construction in the county that will separate ethane from natural gas. "Some of this gas, after it is separated, will end up possibly out of state," Knuth said. "We would like to have the plants that are using this gas, rather than seeing it sent away. This is our challenge now."
Meanwhile, businesses that provide food and shelter, machinery and rental property are doing well. The shale gas drilling business "is quite a breath of fresh air for our county," Knuth said.
The "Shale Works for US" campaign is one of several aimed at improving the public image of the natural gas industry:
In 2007 the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia and the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association launched "Energize West Virginia with Natural Gas."
In 2011 an alliance supported by the West Virginia Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute, and the Independent Oil and Gas Association of West Virginia launched "Just Beneath the Surface."
The mission of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy is "to unify policymakers, regulators, business leaders, and the American public behind a common sense energy strategy to help keep America secure, prosperous and clean."
Ninth Annual Friends of Coal Auto Fair Wraps Up
By Wendy Holdren Register-Herald Reporter
July 23, 3012
From left: Walker Machinery's Executive V.P. and District Manager James Milam
attended the 9th Annual Friends of Coal Auto Fair, in Beckley, July 21 and 22.
BECKLEY — The 9th Annual Friends of Coal Auto Fair wrapped up Sunday, bringing in over 600 cars and thousands of patrons to southern West Virginia.
Friday’s schedule of events at the auto fair got a bit of a damp start, but Jay Rist, CEO of the Beckley-Raleigh County YMCA, said the crowd got to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Stella Parton performed at the YMCA Paul Cline Memorial Sports Complex Friday evening, while automobiles took advantage of the cruise-in to uptown Beckley.
Jabberwocky and the Old School Hall Band rocked uptown Beckley, then everyone was invited back to the showgrounds to watch the Disney-Pixar animated movie “Cars” and a fireworks show right afterward.
Saturday was “Coal Miner’s Day” and a mine safety competition was held bright and early.
Alpha Natural Resources brought their furry friend Ginny to greet everyone at the auto fair and later that evening, the U.S. Army Parachute Team, the “Golden Knights,” dropped in just in time for the big show.
Rist said Saturday night’s concert was truly a treat for Beckley, as Ronnie Dunn and James Wesley performed for a huge crowd.
Awards were distributed Sunday and a church service was held on the final day of the auto fair.
“It’s always tough to battle the elements, but our grounds crew and volunteers did a great job of remedying the muddy areas during the rain,” Rist said.
“The 9th Annual Friends of Coal Auto Fair was an overall successful event for the weekend. I hope this turned out to be a great fundraiser.”
Rist said planning is already under way for the 10th annual event.
Mining Supporters Head to D.C.
By Matt Murphy
For the Daily Mail
June 20, 2012
Photo by Marcus Constantino
WASHINGTON - They're concerned about jobs. They're concerned about providing for their families. They're concerned about the future of coal mining in West Virginia.
They're concerned enough to make a one-day trip on a bus from Logan to Washington, D.C., to meet with Sen. Joe Manchin to voice their support for a bill that would stop the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing its new Mercury and Air Toxic Standards Rule, which is scheduled for a vote today.
(UPDATE: Senators voted 46-53 vote against Sen. James Inhofe's (R-Okla.) resolution.)
The 45 coal miners, family members and supporters who made the trek on Tuesday were all from southern West Virginia - specifically Boone, Logan and Mingo counties - some of the top coal-producing counties in the state.
The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce sponsored the transportation, and the miners and coal supporters who traveled were volunteers.
Some miners are retired, some remain employed and others have been laid off, but their support for the coal industry ties them, their families and other supporters together.
"When you come face-to-face with (legislators) and they see you, they are conscious (of the group's opinion)," said Dennis Adkins, a retired coal miner, Citizens for Coal member and a trip leader. "That's the purpose of the trip, and we want them to represent us."
Nearly everyone on the Washington journey wore a small "Friends of Coal" pin, and many wore coal-related clothing, with pro-coal messages written on the back.
As the bus traversed West Virginia's rugged southern mountains into the flatter Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, conversation ranged from family to jokes to personal backgrounds, but seemed to continue to revert back to coal. Many of the travelers knew one another from the mines or from other coal-related activities.
This 756-mile trip stemmed from the miners' concern over the Utility MACT rule, which from the EPA's standpoint, is targeted at reducing emissions, particularly mercury, from power plants nationwide.
According to the Congressional Research Service's report on the subject, the EPA estimates that with the rule, 11,000 premature deaths would be averted because of the rule, and other ailments, like asthma and developmental effects in children, would also be avoided.
The rule would require power plants to operate cleaner and reduce the amount of toxic compounds released into the atmosphere within three years (although in certain cases, an additional two-year extension may be granted). The report states that 56 percent of currently operating coal-fired power plants already have installed equipment that would meet the new requirements; thus, the rule is targeted at those plants which have not yet installed the equipment.
The EPA itself has estimated that the rule will have an estimated cost of $9.6 billion in 2015, making it one of the most costly EPA regulations ever. That cost would likely be transferred to consumers, causing electricity rates to rise in some areas.
From the miners' perspective, the rule is another part of what has been referred to as President Barack Obama's "War on Coal." The miners and the industry argue that such regulations are aimed at chipping away at the coal industry and coal-produced electricity. For the rest of the story and to watch a video, click here.
We're right on track
by George Hohmann
Daily Mail Business Editor
March 29, 2012 Charleston Daily Mail
Technician Kenny Houston of Sissonville talks to Monty Boyd, who bought Walker Machinery two years ago. Boyd is visiting every Walker location to talk with employees.
Two years since Monty Boyd bought the locally rooted Cecil I. Walker Machinery Co., he says the company remains on target for success.
"We're right on track, where we wanted to be," Boyd said.
"I'm pleased with our progress," he said in an interview. "We're ahead of my expectations."
When Boyd bought the Caterpillar equipment dealer headquartered in Belle on March 31, 2010, some of Walker's employees were anxious.
"They had concerns because Walker had been a long-established business and they wondered what was going to change," Boyd said. "Our message was, 'Nothing!' We would continue to service and support our customers like Walker. We wanted to maintain and grow our employee base and continue to provide a high level of service to customers. Those were our goals.
"We've done exactly what we said. The customer feedback we get is the level of customer satisfaction has increased."
Walker sells, services and rents Caterpillar machinery in western West Virginia and southeastern Ohio. The only change in locations to occur since Boyd bought Walker was the November 2011 closure of the company's store in Athens, Ohio.
Tim McLean, Walker's vice president of operations, said the Athens store, which rented equipment, was opened about five years ago so the company would have an outlet near American Electric Power's power plants along the Ohio River. Many of those plants were undergoing environmental upgrades.
The decision to close the Athens store occurred when the power company construction business diminished. All three employees remained with Walker and were transferred to other locations, McLean said.
Walker currently has eight locations in West Virginia and one in Ohio. Plans are underway to expand the company's Huntington office, McLean said. Walker had just over 600 employees when Boyd bought it. Today, it has just over 700.
Boyd also owns Whayne Supply Co., which is headquartered in Louisville, Ky. Whayne is the Caterpillar dealer in 120 counties in Kentucky and 16 counties across southern Indiana. Whayne has grown from just under 1,300 employees in 2010 to about 1,400 today.
"We certainly saw some improvement in business last year over 2010," Boyd said. "That's why there has been an increase in the number of employees."
Walker has always relied on the coal industry for a majority of its sales. That will not change, Boyd said. But to help Walker ride out the coal industry's ups and downs, Boyd is diversifying the company's customer base, primarily by pursuing opportunities with businesses involved in the natural gas-rich Marcellus and Utica shales. Those opportunities include:
• Rebuilding the large diesel and natural gas-fired engines that transmission companies use to move natural gas through pipelines.
• Selling earth-moving equipment to companies that build drilling pads.
• Selling equipment to build roads in remote areas, to clear rights of way and to lay pipelines.
By diversifying, Walker can retain its highly trained employees and constantly be poised to respond to the coal industry's needs, Boyd said.
Demand for steam coal, used to generate electricity, has weakened in recent months because of the mild winter. Also, some power plants are switching from coal to natural gas because natural gas is cheap.
Meanwhile, demand for metallurgical coal, used to make steel, also has slackened.
"We've seen some major economies soften," Boyd said. "But I believe we will see a little bit of an increase - China is starting to pull back on some of their restrictions. I think we'll see a little faster growth in China and India.
"The uncertainty that's out there puts the same uncertainty in our business," he said. "As a business that serves the coal industry, we have to have the equipment available when there's an upswing. When the market starts to soften, we have to adjust inventory levels. As a distributor to the industry, we certainly look at our inventory levels and employment levels. We're trying to maintain employee levels to meet the demand when the demand begins to increase.
"Our employees are highly trained and skilled so it is a challenge when business takes off to ramp up to that level of skills that are needed to perform.
"I'm very impressed with the abilities, the skill level of our employees," Boyd said. "We have a great group of very talented people at the company. They exceeded the level of expectation on my part."
Many of Walker's key employees are diesel technicians. "They have to have a high level of understanding of computer systems, electrical systems, hydraulic and mechanical systems, in order to diagnose problems with our machines and make the correct repairs," Boyd said.
"The machines appear to be large pieces of iron, but the products we sell are very sophisticated, complex pieces of equipment.
"Even during slower economic times we continue to have a full group of full-time training instructors to continue to train our employees, to keep them at the skill level we need."
McLean said, "In West Virginia in our industry, the solution for us has been and will be the community college system. The community colleges have wrapped their arms around what the industries in this state need and are aligning their curriculums to match our needs."
Boyd said, "We work closely with them."
McLean said, "And we support them. We contribute financial aid to students to attend those programs."
Boyd said the highest number of job openings in the company is for diesel technicians. In addition to trying to recruit top talent, "we try to promote and advance people within our organization," he said.
Boyd is an example of that kind of success. Right out of school, he worked for Caterpillar for 10 years and "then decided to make a career change and went to work for a dealer, Whayne Supply Co. I worked for them for 25 years. I worked my way up the organization and became president of the company."
"The Whayne family was transitioning to the third generation, and the third generation elected to sell the company," Boyd said. "I acquired the company at the end of 2008. In the middle of 2009, the people at Caterpillar asked me to consider the purchase of Walker.
"I tell employees quite often I pinch myself as I wake up and realize the opportunities I've been given to grow and advance."
Boyd operates Whayne Supply and Walker Machinery as separate businesses. Asked why, he said, "If you mention Caterpillar in West Virginia, the next word mentioned is Walker. In Kentucky and Indiana when you mention Caterpillar, the next mention is Whayne Supply. I think that brand, that reputation of serving customers is the value. I think it would be a major business mistake to eliminate that brand."
Although they are operated as separate businesses, "there are some Walker employees with dual responsibilities and some Whayne employees with responsibilities for both organizations. We look at the employees who have the skills and talents, who are going to do the best. They are two sister companies working to make each other a better organization."
Boyd spent several days last week and this week meeting with employees at every Walker location. At the end of each meeting there was time for questions and answers.
Asked what he's hearing at the meetings, Boyd said, "In any ownership transition there's tremendous uncertainty, almost to the level of anxiety, about what would occur with the company. Would they be employed? Was the company going to change names? Now, two years later, employees have a better sense of the company's direction. I think their trust and confidence in the company going forward was very apparent in these meetings.
"I think our employees are seeing our company invest in our facilities. We're making a major investment in our operating system. It's one of the largest investments that either company has made in a long time - quite honestly, in either company's history.
"It will be implemented over the next 18 to 24 months, starting with human resources, then finance and accounting, and will then move into some of the operational areas. We've already chosen the vendor and have begun the work. I think they're seeing this investment is very positive."
In 2009, Walker and the Walker family's foundation were together making charitable contributions of $300,000 to $400,000 a year. Steve Walker said at the time, "We give to a lot of local schools. We're in every yearbook. We try to do it where our employees are."
Boyd was asked about the company's charitable giving now.
"As part of our company's mission statement, we want to support our communities," he said. "I think it's very important for us to be a good corporate citizen. We support our communities where our employees live and work. We want to support those (charities) that our employees also are involved in.
"I don't know that I support just putting our name out on a front banner. We especially want to support educational institutions that provide education hopefully for future employees. There are a lot of individuals out there in great need - we want to support those areas also. It is more than dollars. Sometimes it's the use of equipment. Sometimes it's manpower. We put a significant amount of equipment out in Logan, trying to help people recover from the flooding."
As the owner of two Caterpillar dealerships, Boyd was asked if he would consider buying a third.
"It's a rare occurrence for someone to be afforded the opportunity of one Cat dealership, let alone two in the time we accomplished that," he said. "We're looking at any opportunities for growth. If the opportunity presented itself for another, I would consider it, but I'm not out actively looking. I have plenty to do."
Photo credit: Craig Cunningham
Monty Boyd, owner of two Caterpillar dealerships, the Cecil I. Walker Machinery Co. and Whayne Supply Co., stands in the equipment yard at Walker Express - The Cat Rental Store in Nitro.
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