Cashman Equipment Co. balances business shifts in tough economy

It was the big splash in an otherwise declining year for Henderson and the Valley economy. Valley construction industry mainstay Cashman Equipment Co. made Henderson home when it opened its 3300 St. Rose Parkway location in late 2008.

The 52-acre site became the company's new headquarters, a fresh Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified building for its roughly 300 employees to enjoy and a corporate face city officials referred to as a partner, not just a business.

But Cashman Equipment also was headed into a local and national economic depression, one that would stifle large projects that required its Cat brand and other heavy equipment to build out. Like other industries, there were layoffs—about 30 percent of its workforce—cost cuts and plenty of belt tightening, according to Mike Pack, president of the company.

At its peak, Cashman had about 850 employees systemwide. The layoffs dropped it to about 550, and today, it is back up to about 700 employees, with roughly 300 still at its Henderson site. In the entire Caterpillar brand system, Cashman is No. 3 in employee count and revenues.

The company's Elko operation, which largely supports the mining industry, is expanding and adding new faces. Some of its Las Vegas workforce moved up to Northern Nevada for work, said Pack, while others have been able to enjoy some local mining industry expansion, such as the Molycorp Inc.'s reopening of a rare-earth mine near Primm, Nev., and a couple gold mining operations near Death Valley, Calif., that keep their jobs housed out of the Henderson office.

"Our business is cyclical. That's all there is to it," Pack added.

While mining always has been about half of Cashman's business, it is now more than that, the executive explained. When mining started to boom in the late '90s, the company learned a valuable lesson.

With so many resources put toward serving the industry, construction contractors were left with shortages. That won't happen again, said Pack, as the company is now much better balanced and positioned to handle any shifts in business.

Pack also said the past year has seen upticks in the construction industry, too. Homebuyers tired of foreclosure hassles are opting for new homes. A slight increase in new home building permits has helped some contractors pick up work.

With building, in general, on hold throughout the Valley for the past few years, many contractors sold off some equipment and simply parked broken down machines. Now, they are needing to rent machines or repair and maintain broken-down or idle equipment.

"We knew the rental business was going to be the first choice for contractors," Pack said. "Last year, we started seeing more repairs, too."

Cashman's business comprises about 10 to 15 percent rentals, 20 percent repairs, 25 to 30 percent parts business and the rest is sales. But its offerings go far beyond big machinery.

Through its 80 years of operation, Cashman has carved out niches in subcategories related to the machinery it sells. For example, as a seller of back-up power generation equipment to major commercial centers and Strip hotels, the company has been able to sell maintenance contracts with the machinery.

Its technical services division also provides an oil analysis service that has a technician sample the oil of a piece of equipment every time it reaches a certain number of usage hours to gauge wear and tear on the equipment's internal parts.

"You're always better off repairing something before it breaks on you," Pack said about the service.

As far as future growth is concerned, Pack is hopeful that Congress can finalize a five-year extension for Department of Transportation funding that would help create more  construction jobs in the Valley. It's legislation he and others in the construction industry have their eyes on in the short term.

"Hopefully, Congress can get that done," he added. "That would be really big for all of us."

Source: http://www.hendersonpress.com/business/item/1100-cashman-equipment-co-balances-business-shifts-in-tough-economy

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