Bartell trowels and Morrison screeds are reborn as BMI.
Just like sports fans, “old timers” in the construction industry enjoy talking about the company and brand name acquisitions, trades and stars they have followed over the years. Among armchair historians in the United States, Bartell trowels and Morrison screeds were for a time two such names that were fading into the background of a global parent company — but no more.
Bartell Industries, known since 1946 for pro-quality troweling machines, was acquired by Terex in 1999. That same year Terex also acquired Morrison Screeds and Buggies, which has been in business since the early 1970s. Both were small family businesses with similar management structures and service philosophies. Their complementary product lines made them perfect partners for each other, if not necessarily for the parent company’s goals.
Although the Bartell and Morrison brands remain strong globally — the company currently sells in 60 countries worldwide — the brands languished in the United States as Terex pursued larger equipment.
|“Eventually we will just call the company BMI and we will have several brands within it: Bartell trowels, Morrison screeds, IDP (diamond blades, bits, saws and core rigs) and Nexus, which focuses on the landscaping market.” — John Locke
“Terex was a $6 billion company on its way to $12 billion,” explains John Locke, BMI vice president. “Bartell and Morrison got lost in that structure for a while, which is why we saw an opportunity to buy it back.”
Locke, BMI president Tom Foskett, engineering and business development manager Rob Leggitt and three other partners bought Bartell and Morrison back as a package from Terex in March 2007. Since then they have been developing a plan to revitalize the BMI brands across their existing global markets, in particular in the United States.
One key to this entailed establishing a physical presence and sales staff in the United States to focus exclusively on the U.S. market. They accomplished this
by making a very strategic acquisition.
At the same time that BMI was searching for the right people to lead a U.S. division, New Jersey-based Independent Diamond Products (IDP), led by Jeff Durgin, was seeking ways to expand its share of the diamond blade market. Durgin and associate Mike Case, well-known experts in the diamond tool industry, were also known and respected by BMI’s owners. Plus, IDP’s diamond products fit perfectly into BMI’s growth vision.
“We actually looked at IDP initially as a potential rep in the Northeast U.S.,” says Tom Foskett, BMI president. “Jeff proposed private labeling diamond blades for us and we did that for a time before we decided it made more sense to join the companies. We did that in November 2009 and it has been excellent. We are very pleased to have Jeff on our team.”
|“What I love most about BMI is that we have the horsepower of biggest companies out there, but we have the customer service mind-set of a smaller company.” — Jeff Durgin
Durgin and staff at BMI USA handle the warehousing, parts, sales and service across the United States. BMI’s model is pure distribution; several hundred independent dealers and distributors across the country serviced by both factory direct and independent sales people.
“Eventually we will just call the company BMI and we will have several brands within it: Bartell trowels, Morrison screeds, IDP (diamond blades, bits, saws and core rigs) and Nexus, which focuses on the landscaping market,” Locke says. “We are planning to grow by vertically integrating in the concrete supply market and adding new equipment. For one example, we will soon introduce a new line of grinders, polishers and floor removal systems.”
Another example of BMI’s line expansion efforts is a partnership with Ligchine International, which produces laser-guided screeding machines. Demonstrations of Ligchine screeds, which make laser guidance technology accessible to smaller concrete and paving contractors, are always heavily attended at trade shows such as World of Concrete.
A true game changer
Perhaps the most intriguing and potentially game-changing new player in BMI’s lineup is its Ultra Low Emissions (ULE) technology. ULE technology reduces carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbon emissions as much as 93 percent compared to a stock engine, and allows a gas-engine-powered equipment to run up to 50 percent cleaner than propane without tanks, danger of explosion or reduced horsepower. It literally has to be seen to be believed.
|“Jeff proposed private labeling diamond blades for us and we did that for a time before we decided it made more sense to join the companies. We did that in November 2009 and it has been excellent. We are very pleased to have Jeff on our team.” — Tom Foskett
“Ultra low emissions systems are a huge part of what we are doing right now,” Durgin explains. “The beauty and irony of the ULE system is that it works so well that most people simply don’t believe it until you show them. You can put your face in front of the muffler and all you feel is hot air coming out — there is virtually no detectable odor at all. Most people equate them with scrubbers, but these are actually much more. It takes some demonstrating to sell them, but once you do, people fall in love with them. If they were free, everybody in the world would use them.”
Although Durgin’s main area of expertise remains diamond blades and bits, he has years of experience in equipment. He is widely recognized as an expert in the field and his relationships in the diamond market spans decades. Given this fact, Durgin is understandably excited to be involved with a company that offers such a broad and growing range of premier products.
“What I love most about BMI is that we have the horsepower of biggest companies out there, but we have the customer service mind-set of a smaller company,” Durgin says. “We respond fast, and that allows us to handle our customers needs better than anyone. There is no red tape — we empower all of our people to make decisions when they need to be made. Additionally, our focus on independent distribution sets us far apart from the competition.”
|”Our core products are primarily manufactured locally. We use Honda and Vanguard engines and source hydraulic components, but most of our core products are our designs and are manufactured locally and assembled here in our factory." — Rob Leggitt
However, unlike many small manufacturers that basically “re-badge” existing products for resale, BMI is an engineering driven company. BMI partner Rob Leggitt leads a team of three full time engineers who design next-generation BMI trowels, screeds and related concrete products.
That said, BMI doesn’t engineer every product line; in some subcategories BMI finds it smarter to partner with the market leader in its given field. Examples include Oztec for vibrators and Ligchine. BMI’s flagship lines of Bartell trowels and Morrison screeds are engineered by Leggitt and his team.
”Our core products are primarily manufactured locally,” Leggitt explains. “We use Honda and Vanguard engines and source hydraulic components, but most of our core products are our designs and are manufactured locally and assembled here in our factory. Some non-core products are not manufactured here but we still assemble them here in the factory. We also have a small subset of distribution-type products.”
“Our engineering department sets us apart,” Locke adds. “Many companies that sell this type of equipment just buy and resell it, but a lot of our product designs start with us. We have a lot of local suppliers, but because we design it, make the drawings, engineer and assemble it — where it physically gets made is not all that relevant.”
“We also offer custom-engineered solutions, which is something that not many of our competitors can match,” Leggitt adds.
|“BMI is agile and dedicated to growing our already diverse product line to better serve the STAFDA, rental and concrete industry as a true one-stop shop." — Brian Fortner
The game plan
BMI’s game plan for regaining market share in the U.S. market has several components; reestablish the brands, expand product depth and breadth and get the right people in place. Here again, the best game plan is useless without the right players on the field. In early 2010, BMI hired Brian Fortner, another one-man force of nature in the diamond and concrete market. Fortner is an enthusiastic salesperson, to say the least.
“BMI is agile and dedicated to growing our already diverse product line to better serve the STAFDA, rental and concrete industry as a true one-stop shop,” he says. “Being a privately held company, we have the ability to partner with our dealers and make joint decisions that make great business sense. Many STAFDA dealers have taken their business model into areas that include the full range of what BMI offers — and we will continue to bring on key people and launch products that fit our dealers’ current and future needs. We’re making business fun again!”
The combination of Jeff Durgin, Mike Case and Brian Fortner leading BMI’s charge back into prominence in the U.S. market makes an unbeatable front line. Companywide, BMI realized 2010 sales increases of more than 40 percent over its 2009 numbers. Based on their strengths, network of distributors and rep agencies and industry relationships, BMI projects Durgin and his team will generate a “modest” growth rate of 20 percent in 2011. If the economy cooperates even a little bit, Durgin believes his team will knock that out of the park.
In 2007, when they took Bartell and Morrison private again, BMI’s new owners announced, “Bartell is back!” To that we would simply add, “And better than ever.” CS
Contact Bartell Morrison USA at 732-566-5400; Toll Free: 888-999-1570. Web site: www.bartellmorrison.com