Wheeler Machinery Co. celebrated 60 years in business in November with an afternoon visit from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert at the company’s Salt Lake City headquarters. Wheeler has been a fixture in the Utah construction and mining marketplace as the exclusive dealer and service center for Caterpillar equipment.
Current company president Rob Campbell led the governor on a short tour of Wheeler’s repair and service shop. Herbert watched as technicians in the company’s Component Rebuild Center tested a massive generator used to provide back-up power for facilities, including those at the U.S. Dept. of Defense. The governor then took a test-drive on some Caterpillar equipment in Wheeler’s demonstration area. “It is amazing what we can accomplish with this kind of equipment,” he said.
The governor praised the company’s commitment to the construction and mining industries and for its contribution to the state’s economy. Wheeler employs 300 people at its Salt Lake City headquarters and nearly 300 more at its 10 branches across the state and in Ely, Nev.
Campbell credits Wheeler’s service record as the key to the company’s longevity.
“It is all about service. There is a lot of good equipment out there but what happens when it breaks down?” he said. “Can you get it (the equipment) back tomorrow? Next week? This is someone’s livelihood and when they buy a machine from us, they trust that it will keep running and making them money. We know if we focus on support, the products will take care of themselves.”
Wheeler Machinery opened in 1951 as the Wheeler-Kershaw Co., founded by JK Wheeler and Walter Kershaw when they purchased Caterpillar dealer Robinson Machinery Co. Campbell’s father Lyle joined the company in 1970. Rob, along with brothers Paul and Scott, took ownership of the company in 1996.
Campbell said while construction work has hit hard times in recent years, Wheeler has remained stable with regional work in the mining industry, which has stayed strong.
“I’ve been in down markets before but nothing like this,” Campbell said. “But Utah has done better than some places because of mining and because the state is fiscally smart. I’d rather be here than anywhere else.”
Campbell noted that in 2009 as construction and slowed and mining continued to grow, Wheeler added Metso crushing and screening equipment to its product line.
Herbert said he was optimistic about the future for construction and mining in the state and expressed confidence in Wheeler’s future as well. “As a (former) small businessman myself, I know the challenges of staying in business in a fast-moving marketplace,” he said. “What you see at Wheeler is they not only know how to do it, but do it successfully. They have had a great 60 years and there’s no reason they can’t have another 60 years.”