By: Elizabeth Landry
Reflecting on the past 46 years that Tracey Road Equipment has been in business, the powerhouse company of today is almost unrecognizable compared to its humble beginnings out of one small shop in Syracuse, NY. It’s a testament to President Jerry Tracey’s can-do entrepreneurial spirit and hard work that he built the business himself from the ground up, beginning when he left community college.
“I graduated from high school, went into the Air Force and served in Vietnam. When I came home, I got the GI bill to go to community college, and from community college I started in the business of selling construction equipment. After four years, the company I worked for closed its doors, so along with one of my customers we became partners and created Tracey Road Equipment. A few years later, I bought out my business partner and I’ve been on my own ever since,” said Tracey.
Fast-forward to today and Tracey Road is a construction equipment and truck sales, collision repair, service, parts, and rental dealer with seven and soon-to-be eight locations across New York State. Although the company has expanded and changed throughout the years, Jerry’s strong work ethic as a first-generation business owner is now also reflected in his family members who are involved in Tracey Road’s day-to-day operations. His wife, Debbie, is Vice President, his daughter Christine Julka is the Director of Marketing, his son-in-law Rajan Julka is the company’s Chief Technology Officer, and his sister-in-law Peggy Kip is the Director of Finance.
Paired with the company’s development into a true family-owned business, Tracey Road also found a unique niche in the construction equipment industry along the way. Jerry’s experience in both the trucking and construction industries helped him build a company that offers everything his customers need to finish a job.
“We’re like the Home Depot of the construction transportation industry,” said Tracey.
Scott Collins, Executive Vice President of Sales, emphasized that this end-to-end service sets Tracey Road apart from its competitors.
“For example, let’s say an asphalt paving customer is going to go pave the roads. They can buy a paver from us, they can buy a trailer from us, a roller from us – they can buy all the equipment to do the job and they can buy the truck and the trailer to haul the equipment to the job. Nobody else offers that kind of support, that kind of a one-stop shop,” said Collins.
East Syracuse Expansion
The unique empire that Jerry began building back in 1976 is headquartered in the sprawling, state-of-the-art East Syracuse location. For about three years, this central campus has undergone a massive expansion, adding 35,000 square feet to an already existing 75,000-square-foot facility. The expansion is slated for completion in September of 2022, with an open house scheduled for October 6th.
According to Scott Thayer, Compact Sales Manager at Tracey Road, this expansion will benefit every part of the business.
“The expansion is going to help every aspect of Tracey Road Equipment. It doesn’t matter who it is, everyone is seeing extreme increases in equipment sales, in parts and in service. To keep up with that we had to add mechanics and we had to add space. Especially on the compact side of things – a lot of times [a small excavator] might be the customer’s only machine, and if they cannot get that up and running in a timely fashion, they don’t have another machine to fall back on. That’s where this new addition is going to help, in facilitating quicker turnaround times,” he explained.
As Thayer mentioned, the East Syracuse location expansion creates many career opportunities within Tracey Road. According to Jerry Tracey, the company has a partnership with the BOCES program that aims at helping to educate local students, while building connections with the future workforce.
“We provide a teaching facility for high school juniors and seniors for the diesel tech school. We provide busing for the children and do two classes a day. Some students go into the service shop, some go into the collision body shop, and some go into the parts department, so they learn every aspect of what’s going on,” said Tracey. One goal of this partnership is that these students may one day join the Tracey Road family as employees.
The East Syracuse expansion will provide many benefits for the company, its customers, and the local community, but Jerry was candid about the obstacles the company faced while navigating this expansion.
“Once we got approval from the town planning board, inflation started to hit and our building costs probably went up more than 30%,” he said, adding COVID to the mix also caused supply and building delays.
Tracey’s dedication to the expansion project has not gone unnoticed by the Tracey Road team. Jesse Weller, Sales Manager of the CE (Construction Equipment) Division, recognized that Tracey kept the project moving even when difficulties arose.
“I give Jerry a lot of credit for continuing to push the project and for seeing it through. It’s going to allow us to better serve the customer. We’re growing as a company. As you grow, you need to be able to support the equipment out in the field and we’ve outgrown our current facility,” said Weller.
In addition to the East Syracuse expansion, Tracey Road is also expanding the company’s regional footprint through new locations. Tracey Road’s facilities are in East Syracuse, Albany, Binghamton, Queensbury, Rochester, Utica and Watertown, and that list is rapidly growing.
“We’re looking for a location in Buffalo right now and also in the Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania,” Tracey said.
But the company’s reach doesn’t end there, either.
“We also have an online parts store that we’ve expanded our footprint into so we have an e-commerce component that will sell parts worldwide,” Tracey revealed.
Expanding into the worldwide market is something Tracey Road has initiated by utilizing the latest online technologies.
“We invest heavily in technology that is probably the most current and up-to-date to pull people to our website and get found nationwide and worldwide,” said Rajan Julka, Chief Technology Officer. “We have a fully dedicated marketing department, which is a little unique inside a dealership. Most dealerships don’t dedicate as many resources as Jerry has to it. We utilize various points of technology to help drive traffic to our site. We have gone from around 100 page views per month to almost 100,000 page views per month on our website.”
New Hitachi Excavator Line
Intertwined with Tracey Road’s physical locations and online expansion is an exciting development within the company’s new product offerings. Tracey Road was recently named one of only two exclusive dealers for the new Hitachi Excavator line in New York State. Hitachi ended a deal to manufacture and sell excavators with John Deere in 2021, launching the new Hitachi Construction Americas brand in March of 2022. With Tracey Road being one of only 14 dealers across the country to represent the new Hitachi Excavators, Tracey emphasized the importance of this expansion within the company’s product offering for its customers.
“Hitachi is the number one worldwide excavator manufacturer, so we’re excited about the opportunity it’s going to bring to us. We will be able to service all the John Deere excavator products along with the Hitachi brand,” Tracey said.
Compared to previous Hitachi models marketed under the John Deere brand, the new High Performance Hitachi excavators feature improved technology not seen in older machines. The biggest improvements include a 3-pump hydraulic system versus the older 2-pump system, a heavy-duty undercarriage and boom assembly, an Ariel Angle camera system, standard LED lights, ConSite Oil and a 4 year/4,000-hour full machine warranty. For Tracey Road’s customers, these new features signify better, longer-lasting performance and an increased return on investment.
Equipment Rental Options
Not only are the new Hitachi excavators available for purchase from Tracey Road, they are also available for rent as part of the company’s vast rental offerings. In order to provide customers with flexibility and options to meet their needs, equipment can be rented on a daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal basis.
Recent shipping and supply chain constraints mean customers rely on Tracey Road’s wide array of equipment offered for rent, enhancing availability any time customer needs arise. “We rent everything from skid steer attachments all the way up to 180,000-pound excavators,” said Greg Hulslander, Rental Manager at Tracey Road. Equipment and attachment brands available for rent include New Holland, Morbark, Hitachi and Sakai, as well as Astec, which encompasses the Carlson paver line, Roadtec pavers, mills and reclaimers, and KPI-JCI crushers, screeners and conveyers.
Renting provides a “try before you buy” option in which customers can use a portion of previous rental fees toward a down payment to buy the equipment later if it fits their needs for use in upcoming projects.
“Our goal with renting equipment is to make [our customers’] jobs more profitable by making sure they have the right piece of equipment for the job they’re doing,” explained Hulslander. “The customer is number one, and their satisfaction is the key to our success.”
Growth Through Relationships
Certainly, at the center of Tracey Road’s expansion efforts remains the company’s focus on customer satisfaction and customer relationships. Scott Collins explained that Tracey Road’s diverse product offerings allow their sales territories to stay relatively small. He calls this “customer-intimate sales” and emphasized that, at the end of the day, “people buy from people.” After all, Tracey Road may be expanding through facility additions, new locations, and new product lines, but perhaps the most important growth continues to be through building relationships.
Jesse Weller honed in on the company’s focus on relationships, saying, “Jerry built his business on relationships; that’s what’s very dear to him. We are a large company that is family-owned, and the owner is here 7 days a week and he is accessible to all his employees. Although we are a large corporation, we are able to maneuver like a small family-owned business.”
From humble beginnings to the ever-expanding large business it is today, Tracey Road continues to derive its success from investing in its employees and customers. Weller said, “I’ve been really impressed with how Jerry continues to invest in the business. He’s giving us the opportunity to grow through new resources that continue to make us successful and provide our customers with exceptional service.”
When asked about the ultimate focus of Tracey Road as a business, Jerry Tracey responded without hesitation: “We’re a family-operated business and our employees are an extension of our family. We want to make our customers our best business partners, building strong relationships and earning customers for life.”