Professionals in sales and manufacturing who spoke with The Dallas Express at a business event this week spoke about some of the biggest hurdles in their industry, citing personnel limitations and interest rates.
Equipment dealers and landscaping companies from around the region met at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine on Monday for a nationwide road show hosted by AriensCo., the privately-owned manufacturer of outdoor power equipment brands Ariens and Gravely, among others.
AriensCo. launched its road show in September to meet face-to-face with equipment dealers and landscaping companies around the region to discuss ways to navigate the industry’s challenges and opportunities.
The event featured new product demonstrations, the launch of a new parts brand called Henry’s Parts and Equipment, and more.
In total, AriensCo. has over 2,300 active dealers around the U.S., with 111 located in Texas. One such partner who attended the road show on November 6 was San Antonio-based equipment dealer DeWinne Equipment Co.
While DeWinne Equipment Co. is the state’s largest equipment dealer by sales volume, according to AriensCo., the business is not without its struggles.
Too many aspiring workers are trying to be “mid-level” instead of taking on true workmanship responsibilities and earning a living that way, opined Ernie DeWinne, the owner and operator of DeWinne Equipment Co.
“Finding employees who are skilled and who want to learn this industry… is difficult,” he told The Dallas Express.
DeWinne places much of the blame on the U.S. school system for instilling a belief in the youth that college is for everybody and that a degree is still a must-have in today’s society.
“In our market, schools have trained kids to think that everybody has to go to college. We don’t need colleges, I need more trade schools, I need more people that want to work with their hands,” DeWinne explained.
He points to the salary of plumbers and electricians as evidence of why a college degree is not the only plausible path in life.
“They’re making $100,000 a year, and yet you got guys out of college in debt and struggling to find a job,” DeWinne said.
DeWinne explained that he has seen the industry overcome many obstacles over his 41-year career, but overcoming the growing personnel problem has become a cause for concern.
“There is no simple answer,” he told The Dallas Express. “Many kids these days are leaving school without the initiative to be independently successful, and that’s because parents are too worried about being their child’s best friend instead of being their parent.”
“If they [parents] would just build that relationship and truly give their kids initiative to be able to be successful, I think the world would be a better place. I really do.”
Personnel is certainly a challenge for the industry, but Walter Geraghty of DeWinne Equipment Co. suggested the main hurdle for dealerships in today’s market is the economy and interest rates.
“Rising interest rates make it tough on business. And it’s the small business and landscapers that are the majority of our customers — along with school districts and cities where their budgets are a little bit different,” Geraghty told The Dallas Express.
“So much of what we do is geared toward school districts, and they rely on funds for landscaping,” Geraghty said, emphasizing the impact bonds have on purchasing power.
“If new outdoor power equipment isn’t in their budget, they outsource. And then small contractors have a tough time,” he explained.
Until the economy improves, it’ll remain a “struggle for the business owner, the end-user, the guy borrowing money, and the guy that’s trying to keep everything moving,” Geraghty said.
While Dallas was the last scheduled stop for AriensCo. in November, the company said it would release details at a later date for a road show in the Northeast.