AmeriPumps retooling expectations

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — AmeriPumps announced it would open a facility in Hillsville last July and the company began ramping up as the recession started to squeeze businesses across the nation.

Now, the market for the industrial pumps that AmeriPumps assembles and distributes throughout the Western Hemisphere has changed.

These massive pumps run on Caterpillar diesel engines and feature patented Sykes Pumps from England.

Beginning last October, Tom Sullivan, executive vice president of sales and marketing, saw a decline in the percentage of models sold and an increase in those rented.

Where the company expected sales and leasing deals to be evenly divided, rentals now far outstrip sales. Sullivan said about 80 percent of the activity comes from rentals, because all kinds of companies are putting off the expenses they can.

"Everybody's taking a wait-and-see attitude," he noted.

AmeriPumps has 14 workers at the Hillsville location at this point.

With economic circumstances the way they are, Sullivan said the company was fortunate that it was in a start-up period and had the flexibility to refocus its efforts. "The advantage of being small is we can be flexible to do what we need to do."

The company's target market includes infrastructure construction, mining and quarry work — places contractors have to move large amounts of water.

Other uses for the thousands-of-gallons-per-minute pumps include irrigation, bridge construction, flood recovery and more.

Building infrastructure is an ongoing need in this country, Sullivan said.

"We're kind of recession proof — there will always be sewer work, infrastructure work."

He said the current slowdown in building is an example of people holding onto their money until things improve. It's like consumers trying to make their old cars last longer, instead of going to a dealership and buying a new one in these uncertain times.

"The economists are saying this year's a wash," Sullivan said. "If we're going to have to focus our energy on renting machines, that's what we have to do.

"When the economy turns, we'll be ready."

Rentals are sustaining the business right now. Sullivan says AmeriPumps still has the goal of increasing the manufacturing side.

All things considered, he's pretty pleased. In the meantime, the company is holding its own. "Basically, we're able to maintain our overhead, our payroll and pay our bills," Sullivan said. "That's the main thing right now, isn't it? Because most people aren't able to do that."

AmeriPumps has good contacts with other companies, he added. The situation could change on a dime with a big order that would spur AmeriPumps into round-the-clock production.