In 1960, Bill Wright established ASCO Equipment (ASCO) in Lubbock, Texas, as a Towmotor Lift Truck dealership and U.S. Army surplus store. When Caterpillar Tractor Company bought out Towmotor in 1965, the business became a CAT dealer. Four years later, the business acquired a Clark-Michigan dealership. When Clark-Michigan merged with Volvo in 1985, ASCO took on the Volvo brand, as well.
In 2009 the business made another acquisition, bringing on CASE Equipment Sales and Service as part of the company. These major brands continue to make up a large part of ASCO’s business, as well as other recognizable names, such as Bobcat, Kawasaki, Genie and Mitsubishi, among others.
ASCO has evolved significantly over the last 54 years, although the Wright family still owns and operates the business. Bill’s sons, Brax and Steve Wright, serve as the company’s CEO and president, respectively. Paula, Bill’s daughter and treasurer for ASCO, is also proud to be part of the family operation.
Furthermore, each of the siblings’ children are involved with the company, too. Chase Key, Courtney Vanderham and John Wright bring ASCO into its third generation of family operation. The business continues to grow as ASCO makes acquisitions and adds products and services to the lineup.
“We are trying to grow the company all the time,” says Brax. “We have 22 locations in 18 cities throughout Texas and we serve the whole state with one brand or another.”
“We have a broad line of equipment, but our niche is really service and parts,” John notes. “Our sales department will sell you a machine, but it is the parts and service we offer that brings customers back. Our goal is to support our customers the best we can after they have bought a machine.” ASCO’s customers include contractors, oil companies and farmers throughout the state.
Over the years, the base product line has remained unchanged. Customers purchase heavy equipment, such as backhoes, excavators, loaders and forklifts, from any of the ASCO’s represented brands. Meanwhile, technology is changing. With the rising price of fuel, manufacturers are striving to make machinery more efficient. As an effort to cut down on air pollution, these brands are building equipment that runs cleaner, too.
“Most of the major brands have gone to at least tier-four interim or tier-four final,” John explains. “The exhaust on these machines is so clean, that if you are using them in a warehouse, you might even improve the air quality.” Several ecologically greener lines for these major brands are moving quickly, although particularly in the wake of the recession, rentals and service are the real standout parts of the business.
“Many construction companies are leaning more toward rentals these days,” John explains. “We have a full separate rental department with its own salesman and service shop. The growth in this segment of the business is largely because people are looking for more constant expense. They can pay the same price every month instead of these big expenditures every few years. This preference has helped to make sure we’ll be around for a while. With the construction market in a lull, people couldn’t afford to buy new. Instead, companies service older equipment or rent to cut overhead. We have diversified ourselves pretty well.”
These multiple facets of the business help to demonstrate what John calls, the ‘ASCO Difference.’ He explains that while many of the larger companies also offer equipment service, it can take weeks before a machine even makes it into the shop. “A customer brings a machine in and that machine is down for a month,” he elaborates. “We have the rental side and we have the service side. We try to get to the machine immediately and we can also offer loaners or discounted rentals to keep our customers going while their machines are in our shop. We want to keep their up-time to a maximum.”
Customers have come to rely on ASCO for reliable service that reduces down time and offers better value than other rental and service locations. The team has built a strong and growing customer base within Texas, a factor that allows the business to continue growing, making acquisitions and absorbing product lines throughout the state.
While the success of the business is a major point of pride for the company, the Wright family takes far greater satisfaction in supporting employees, partners and the community. “Our company motto is to be a blessing to our customers, teammates, community and stockholders,” John explains. “We try to provide our employees with better benefits than most companies, with good wages and good health care. We give scholarships to many of our employees’ children to go to college.”
As part of the ‘be a blessing’ philosophy that guides ASCO, John and his family aim to do well enough as a company to be able to pass on that benefit to a charitable organization every year. Each of the 22 branches puts together a fundraiser each year for a company-chosen organization. Once employees have raised money to go to these organizations, the company matches the amount.
The beneficiary for 2014 is the Soldier’s Child Foundation. “They start out with sending birthday gifts to kids who have lost a parent in military service each year until their 18th birthday and they send kids from age 12 to 14 to summer camp together,” John says. “We have also held fundraisers for the Children’s Miracle Network, Combat Marine Outdoors and the Make a Wish foundation over the last few years.”
Community support is at the heart of ASCO’s operations, a factor that sets the business apart on its own. John and his team are looking forward to continued growth in order to keep supporting these worthy causes. While customers will continue to rely on ASCO Equipment for efficient service and quality products, the focus on giving back will continue to be the team’s drive for success.