B&K Equipment and Crane Service, based in Wyalusing, Pennsylvania, is approaching its thirtieth anniversary. Founded in 1989 by Tracy Keeney, the company is a true family business, not only in the literal sense but also in terms of its supportive, service-based atmosphere built on integrity.
B&K Equipment and Crane Service specializes in full-service construction equipment sales, rentals, and repairs, and also provides trucking, rig-moving and crane services. The company makes continuous improvement its mission. “The key to success,” says the team, “is to keep striving to be better, to keep asking questions like ‘What’s next? How can I help the next person? How can we provide a service that our customers can’t live without?’”
With key questions like these underpinning everything it does, the company has grown from humble beginnings – one man selling one bulldozer – into a family of more than 50 employees, two locations, a fleet of trucks, trailers, cranes and oil field equipment, and hundreds of construction equipment assets bought, sold, and rented. Hard work and dedication form the fundamental principles instilled by founder Tracy Keeney, and are what allow every employee to “have a voice in helping us achieve our ultimate goal: to provide unparalleled service to our customers and create lasting relationships that help everyone achieve their goals.”
Today, B&K Equipment and Crane Service offers sales and rentals of quality heavy construction equipment. Its diverse fleet of trucks and trailers allows the company to move anything from skid-steers to 150,000 lb. wheel loaders, while its oil field equipment has given it the opportunity to become a trusted rig-moving company. With cranes ranging from 8 to 550 tons and highly qualified NCCCO (National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators) operators, the B&K team provides the right equipment with the right operator, coupled with the quality service and repair skills needed to ensure safe and reliable use. The team continually invests in new equipment that helps it stand out from the competition, and a strong work ethic keeps the wheels turning in the right direction.
The company got its start as a true one-man show. Tracy had just returned from military duty when he went to work for a local John Deere dealership as a salesman. He worked at John Deere until 1989, building his understanding of construction equipment, and then decided to branch out on his own.
“It all began in 1989 with a $12,000 loan from a local bank that went towards the purchase of a used bulldozer,” he shares. “I then resold it, and we progressed from there. I have a high school diploma and three years of military experience in the army before working at John Deere for nine years. My main motivation was to feed my family,” says Tracy.
“Today,” he continues, “we have approximately 50 people employed and do business not only locally, but also around the world.” Integrity is key, he believes. “This is how I was raised and that is how B&K Equipment and Crane Service conducts business… This story only happens if we get up every day planning on doing the right thing for our customers and employees.”
The business model at the start was to buy and sell used construction equipment, with rentals initially comprising only a small part of the business. Over the years, as the business climate shifted, the company evolved along with it, purchasing and renting out its equipment. This turnabout was a direct result of the surge in drilling activity in the Marcellus and Utica shale formation in northeast Pennsylvania.
The majority of the company’s business, in fact, is performed for the United States energy sector and thrives due to this proximity to the shale play, the largest natural gas field in the country. In recent years, however, the company has shifted gears somewhat to service bridge and road infrastructure as well. “Today, seventy-five percent of our business is related to the energy sectors, and twenty-five percent of the concentration is on bridge construction, roads, and other forms of construction,” says Tracy.
“Now, we are seeing a lot of cottage businesses coming along, with the abundance of energy we have here,” he explains. “We also have new companies coming and power plants being built. Liquefied natural gas plants are also going up, and the infrastructure is in place. That spurred all these new industries coming in and investing in the area.”
In the energy sector, the equipment just seems to get bigger and bigger, creating new opportunities for B&K Equipment and Crane Service. Tracy is always looking for good used equipment and recently purchased a Grove GMK7550 crane. This 550-ton crane moves B&K Equipment into a whole new market and opens up opportunities outside the energy sector.
“We see the potential benefits to our company,” Tracy says. “When you see an opportunity, if you are not carrying the right equipment, you can’t capitalize. We stepped up to the plate and decided that if we wanted to play in that market, we had to get new equipment,” says Tracy. In the entire state of Pennsylvania and the southern tip of New York, there are probably no more than ten of these cranes.
Not only does this new crane increase the area within which B&K Equipment can work, it also increases the company’s capabilities. “We’ve used the big crane in many different areas. We are willing to travel without issue up to 250 to 300 miles out to secure business,” says Tracy. “Obviously, cranes are all about the geometry and physics. The further out you reach, the less capacity you have. It puts B&K Equipment out into the larger construction project field,” he says.
For a company that is all about its people, the industry-wide shortage in skilled labor has a particularly strong impact. “You can find people, but good people are hard to find,” says Tracy. “We don’t hire someone just because we need bodies. If they do not fit with our culture, they are out.” The flip side of that is, “If we find someone with a good work ethic, they can be taught; without it, we are not interested,” says Tracy. To this end, B&K Equipment looks to the local trade schools to find people who are the right fit for the team.
Ultimately, Tracy says, the only way to stay ahead of the competition is simply to do a better job. “It’s about doing what we say we will do when we say it will be done. Honestly, nobody does that better than we do. We are good at pulling rabbits out of our hat. We really don’t have a sales force out on the road; we depend on getting the next job based on our prior efforts. Our reputation precedes us,” he says.
That reputation has been built on a history of safety, customer service and doing what is right for its dedicated employees and customers. As Jay Brigham, Director of Safety, says, “I spent 13 years in the armed forces, where it was my honor to experience a bond that was true and lasting. I woke up every day knowing my teammates would have my back and I would have theirs. We spoke of the importance of safely completing each task, and we committed ourselves to bringing each other home alive,” he shares.
B&K Equipment’s robust safety culture echoes this approach. “At B&K Equipment and Crane Service, we know and live the same type of bond I thought could only be experienced in the military,” continues Jay. “Our commitment to each other is the same commitment we have for our customers. Our creed is professionalism, dedication and respect. The safety of our employees comes first, but a goal of ‘target zero’ is a result of our way of life. We perform each day and come back the next to perform again.”
Shop Manager Mike Ferguson agrees. “Having been with B&K Equipment and Crane Service for over 25 years, I have seen many changes within the company,” he says. “One thing that has not changed is our commitment to our customers. We have some of the most skilled and dedicated technicians in the industry, willing to do whatever it takes to keep our customers up and running. Our service department has the skill to handle everything from your small gas powered plate tamper to your large hydraulic excavator.”
The company has certainly hit upon a winning formula: building a strong reputation based on integrity, trust and respect, while keeping abreast of shifts and developments in the industry. Ultimately, as Tracy says, “You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. We have the best crew of young people you can imagine. That’s what makes it all work.”