Iconic Construction Projects: the Brooklyn Bridge

It’s the Fourth of July today and all week both our customers and employees have been restless.  It’s hard to focus when there’s a big holiday in the middle of the week, we understand!  As we thought about what made sense to write about during this week we celebrate America, I thought that we should celebrate a really important construction project right here in our great state of New York: the Brooklyn Bridge.

It’s iconic, it’s well-recognized, it often makes appearances in movies, and it has a great history.  There are plenty of places you can get a deep history of this monument but we thought we’d give you the Rental Center of Monticello version: short, sweet, and to the point!

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Don’t give up

John Augustus Roebling designed the Brooklyn Bridge.  He was a German immigrant who was well-known for other suspension bridges he had done in his new country.  However, while doing surveys for the bridge he sustained an injury which led to a tetanus infection (which in those days, could be fatal).  He did indeed end up dying from the tetanus, but not before he managed to pass on the entire project to his son Washington Roebling.

Washington Roebling worked down in the caissons – which you will recognize as the towers of the bridge – and before the US Navy had developed its diving tables which dealt with the problem of working at certain depths – and developed decompression sickness.  This was such a problem that Washington was unable to physically supervise the work.  His wife, Emily Warren Roebling, became the link between her recovering husband and the work site.  She spent the next 11 years supervising the construction, while learning higher mathematics and suspension bridge construction, among other things!

Crush rumors of your demise

The bridge opened on May 24, 1883 to much fanfare.  President Chester A. Arthur himself crossed the bridge with the first crowd of people to do so – but not before Emily.  You would figure all that hard work would count for something, and indeed, she was the first to cross it!

But just 6 days after the bridge opened there were rumors spread that it was about to collapse, which led to a stampede that got about a dozen people killed!  P.T. Barnum (yes, Barnum & Bailey’s Barnum) had enough of that and led 21 elephants across the bridge in a show of solidarity and to calm the citizens down.

Persevere

Why is the Brooklyn Bridge standing, 130 years after its construction, when so many other bridges built around that era are no longer with us?  Firstly, Washington Roebling planned ahead.  Aerodynamics of bridge building had not been discovered as a discipline (and indeed, wouldn’t really be known until the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse: the bridge used to be called “Galloping Gertie” because of the way the bridge moved!) until the 1940s.  Despite not knowing about the aerodynamics, since Washington wanted the bridge to endure he built the bridge 6 times stronger than it needed to be.  Well, at least he wanted to.  A man had sold him some inferior wiring that compromised that and since it was still 4 times stronger than it needed to be, even with the compromised wiring, Roebling proceeded.  When you aim higher than your target, even when you fall short you hit your mark!

The bridge today is an iconic part of New York and whenever we take friends into the city, most of them ask to at least see it, if not also cross it.  They are in the midst of a “strengthening” project now which should be done next year (the approaches onto the bridge were deemed to be “poor” and are being redone) so there is some construction work on there but you can still walk across.

Crossing the Bridge

Lessons we take with us as part of our everyday work here (and lessons we share with our customers when they call in, halfway through a project):

1.  Be bold with your projects.  Dream big!

2.  Don’t give up even when obstacles get in your way.  Be creative with how you solve your problems.

3.  Build with quality and thoughtfulness so your work will outlast you.

A very Happy Independence Day to you all from all of us here at the Rental Center of Monticello!

Equipment Rentals and the US Economy

One of the interesting things about working in our sector is that people look to our numbers to indicate the direction of the economy.  If “equipment rentals are up,” that’s usually taken as a positive sign.  This is because so many people look to housing starts as an economic indicator.  If there are more housing starts, more people will rent (or buy) equipment, and at least in our industry, that means more profit for us and for our clients.

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But is that really true?  In the short term, yes.  But when you are talking about such big economic trends you have to speak in generalities.  We might get a better sense of the real picture from the other side of the looking glass.  Let’s, for example, think about how it might work for us here in Monticello, NY.  If we use housing starts to measure economic growth, what do we do with our excess housing inventory?  If there are more houses for sale that people simply don’t want to buy because they’d rather build their own (maybe it’s cheaper, maybe they want to customize, maybe they want to be closer to a new park and school instead of an older, more historic neighborhood) ultimately the small local economy is going to have to deal with that excess inventory.  Two things can happen here.  Either the market can have an adjustment to a lower price because of the excess inventory, or the neighborhoods in which there are a lot of homes for sale will begin to lose momentum (growth) and character (the “moss” that grows around a community).

In our industry, either of those scenarios still present opportunities for our sector.  For those who are dealing with flatlining home equity or don’t want the market rates to dictate the valuation of their house, there’s always room for improvement.  A new wing of the house, a new room, a new pool, a new garden – these are all things you can do with the help of new equipment.  If it turns out that flight to suburbs changes old neighborhoods or virtually obliterates them through evacuation, then there’s the possibility of redevelopment, which will still need equipment for demolition, leveling, excavation, and rebuilding.

In this little story we can see that if you use the simple metric of “equipment rentals up” = “economy on the rise” you might not have all the facts.  Sure, our industry and the homebuilding sector will do well, and anytime there is good economic news the consumer/taxpayer at large “feels” more comfortable (whatever that means) and makes purchases and investments and improvements based on that comfort and confidence.  But we think it’s always important to take those big, national narratives and translate them to our local municipalities.  We will only know how well we are doing by measuring how well the place we live is doing.  We often forget in the national thrum of news that 80% of most of our lives are lived under state and local laws, and so too, whatever big national trends are going up or down, there’s always an opportunity to reinforce or fight back those trends, depending on which side of the trend you are on (or want to be on).

So I asked you to look at the big national story through our local perspective.  I’ll be fair and go the other way with you.

If we say “equipment rentals are up” we are also talking about the new mega-trend of rentals.  Do you think of Netflix as part of that trend?  The trend that made you realize you can get mostly any movie you want within 2-3 days (sometimes immediately via streaming) so you don’t have to buy/maintain a library?  Or what about the new disruptor AirBnB, which allows people to turn that extra space in their home into cash by renting to people who like the idea of staying in a home instead of a hotel?  Even within the classic car-rental sector there has been a new niche developed: car-sharing a la ZipCar.  Each of these innovations continues to teach the population that ownership is still king, but that we can leverage that ownership to help everyone be smarter about how they spend their money and time.  And that’s an exciting thing to be part of.  And hopefully, something that you’ll think about when you hear “rentals are up” next time.

4 things to remember when renting a tent for your event

Some time ago we blogged about ways to make an outdoor event great.  Today we are going to step beyond that article to drill down a bit more specifically and talk about the tent component of your outdoor event.

Now, not everyone wants/needs/can afford a tent for their event.  This article is for those who have never done so and are considering it and want to be fully aware of everything that goes into tent rental and setup.  We hope these suggestions for things to remember will help you have a great event!

1.  Check your local ordinances!

Here in Monticello, NY, you may need a permit for your party tent, depending on your address and property size.  You can start by going to your local municipality’s website (like ours) and looking at the Frequently Asked Questions to see if that directs you to the right forms.  If those don’t help, just pick up the phone and ask your questions.  City staff are (usually) pretty friendly and ready to help, as long as you ask nicely!

You never want to get in trouble for hosting a great event.  It can definitely put a damper on things so before you get started on all the other planning start here first.

with side walls in place

2.  Shop around

Obviously we’d like you to rent from us, but we want you do so because you’ve heard good things about us and have done your homework.

Have you called local rental places and asked them about your event?  Were they knowledgeable and friendly?  How do they charge? Do they price match? (We do, plus we will beat by 10%!)

The number one thing that happens when we take calls like this is that we ask a lot of questions that our customers don’t necessarily know the answers to.  Before you call, know the answers to these bare minimum questions:

a.) What dates are you looking at? (do you have a backup date should weather intervene?)
b.) How many people do you need to be able to put inside? (this also relates to a conversation about table and chair rental)
c.) What will the outdoor conditions be like? (is the ground level/uneven; how’s the drainage)

20x30 white canopy tent

20×30 white canopy tent

3.  Consider the interior of the tent

The way that tents are designed today you can have rooms, anterooms, hallways, etc.  Since a tent isn’t a canopy, it has a center pole and framework and you can have very high ceilings, which changes the entire look and feel of the room(s).  What are you visualizing?  What do you want the rooms to look like?

Now, despite the flexibility you can have with other rooms, in the vast majority most tents, you can’t have restrooms.  You should figure out whether there are enough bathrooms on site or whether you should explore getting a restroom trailer or even portable toilets.

What do you want to do for flooring?  As we alluded to in the last point, are you dealing with uneven ground?  Usually a rental company can help lay some heavy plastic down on the ground in order to create a proper surface for a carpet or any other bottom surface you would like.

What about temperature inside?  Will you need fans?  Heaters?  How will you maintain those temperatures?

4.  Have a backup plan

All this good planning can go to waste if there is a natural disaster, bad weather, or an unexpected local event on the day of your event!  Make sure you have a backup for your event.  Even if your “backup” plan is to reschedule for another day in which all the other pieces could come together, you would still be ahead of 95% of all event planners, even the professional ones!

We hope that these things to remember assist you in planning your outdoor event, and remember we are always here to answer your questions about anything you have in mind about tent rental (and all the other components that go along with tent rental).  Just remember that before you call you should have some pretty solid ideas about your event (see above) so that when we ask clarifying questions you won’t be left thinking that you’ll have to get back to us.  Or, hey, you could ask us for ideas.  We are always happy to help!

Social Media and Your Business

So, a couple of our customers have seen our new(ish) presence on Twitter and Facebook and even Google+ and have asked why an equipment rental firm in Monticello, New York needs to be broadcasting our thoughts and ideas to the whole world.  “You’re a local business,” they say.  “Why worry about everybody else in the world?”  Fair question.  We’ll try to answer!

I suppose we would begin by saying that we have come to learn and understand that social media is just today’s buzzword for something that has existed for a very long time: word of mouth.  Is there ever such a thing as “too much word of mouth”?  Would you ever tell someone, “Well, thanks for telling me about that company, but I’ll never be in that part of New York, so you wasted your time telling me about them”?  Of course not!  This is because “word of mouth” is part and parcel of storytelling.  As humans, as social beings, we love hearing a great story, and just because that story is about a business doesn’t make it any less interesting.

Businesses like ours particularly thrive on word of mouth.  It’s our best and least expensive form of advertising.  We think the reason we’ve been in business all these years is because we do our best to help our customers and embedded within the very pricing of our products – we rent by the day, not the hour (so you don’t have to clock-watch, you can just focus on your work) – is the way we think about what you do.

john deere 200d excavator rental center monticello

What makes our business so fun (apart from getting to work outside often) is that we are renting and selling potential and dreams.  People come to us with an idea of clearing a space, creating a space, improving a space, or adding something entirely new.  The wheels of creativity are spinning and they are seeing something where there is currently nothing.  We get to help them explore that creativity and “paint” with our tools.  We get to help them develop that idea into something real.  Now, sometimes that means that we have to tell them that the idea is unrealistic and we try to conceive of a realistic way to execute their notion.  Other times we are so inspired by their work that we go home and do something similar ourselves (the advantage of owning an equipment rental firm is you get to use all the toys yourself!).

husqvarna rental center monticello

If you feel lost about this whole “social media” thing and you’re just an “old-school” business owner (like us), don’t worry.  It’s not that complicated.  It’s just word of mouth, put into the digital space, where it’s resident forever.  We ran into a great “intro to social media” podcast the other day that can walk you through some of these ideas that we took the time to learn ourselves.

And to circle back to the original question that started this post, which was why we “cared” about the whole world and not just the “rentable radius” around Monticello, New York, we hope we’ve answered it through some of what we’ve alluded to above, but in case we haven’t been totally clear, it’s because story-telling is not geographically limited.  We believe that social media is about sharing your stories, about being passionate about your brand and your customers, and about learning more about yourself and your industry.  Every single day.

If that means that, by our storytelling, we *happen* to reach the rest of the world, great.  But that wasn’t why we started blogging in the first place and why we blog weekly.  It’s because we love what we do and how we can help our customers and instead of being overwhelmed by the social media tsunami, we decided to step up, learn the languages of facebook, twitter, and google+, and share our stories beyond the walls of our store.  We continue to be humbled by the stories from our own customers – but now – also hearing the stories of other customers from rental centers far beyond our state.  It’s a way to challenge us to think in new ways to how we can always improve and serve our customers better.  And that makes all the “work” of social media worthwhile.

Three reasons to take a short break from your work and step outside

We’ll be honest.  Here in Monticello pretty much anywhere you turn on the compass, you’re going to run into a forest or possibly a lake.  The “Great Outdoors” is definitely on display here.  Additionally, being in charge of the Rental Center means that if we’re not outdoors with our customers or helping our customers or delivering to our customers, we’re outdoors working on our own business.  We’re blessed that way.  In fact, in a society that gives us more and more mobility (so many people are able to work from any location in the world) we are sometimes not cognizant of the fact that being outdoors isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity for that machine we call the human body.

We talk about equipment maintenance here, and as the sun shines this morning we thought we might take a variation of that theme and talk about human equipment maintenance via the outdoors!

Fresh Air

Now, we understand that some places don’t have the best air (see Exhibit A below)

equipment rental monticello new york

but apart from the really bad places, most times outside air is going to be healthier for you.  Why?

  • Being outdoors is itself a cue to “take a deep breath.”  As you take that deep breath, hold it, and then exhale, you feel better and often more relaxed.  Part of that is due to the influx of oxygen.  So much of the air we breath is “not-oxygen” that an intentional (and intense) intake of air, that happens to have oxygen in it, makes us feel better.  In fact, high oxygen levels have been known to enhance physical well-being and have been linked to better health.
  • Indoor air is recirculated.  Many of us work in offices, but the point is perhaps best driven home by visualizing plane rides, which recirculate a very compact amount of air.  Half of the air in an airplane comes in from outside (through the jet engines) and is cooled before being mixed with (get ready) our sweat, dead skin, gases, coughs, viruses, and bacteria.  Even those who aren’t “germophobic” might cringe.
  • To our first point, fresh air leads to more oxygenated blood.  More oxygenated blood leads to lower blood pressure and better circulation, as well as speeding the removal of waste from the bloodstream.  This makes  your body “flow” better and leads to easier and better sleep too!

Exercise

Now, some of you will see that word and get worried that we are advocating some kind of workout when you take an “outdoor break.”  Not at all.  We will tell you not to simply simulate your posture from indoors, that is, being seated in a comfortable position.  Take a walk, move around, move your limbs, stretch yourself.  Not everyone’s workplace/work area allows for this sort of movement, but within the space you can, you should try to move around.  There will be plenty of time to sit down for hours on end – take the time to move around and wake your body up.  You’ll go back to work with more energy!

Nature

As I’ve said above, not everyone lives in Monticello with lots of nature all around.  In fact, some of our readers may be looking at the picture we posted of the Los Angeles smogline and say, “Hey guys, that’s me!  What am I supposed to do?”  Fair enough.  We submit your break areas may not look like this:

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Or even like this:

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But whatever it may look like, you can enjoy the sunshine, the particular weather of the day, the flora and fauna around you, and that other part of nature – your co-workers!  Take the time to relax and get to know them.  Sometimes that can be hard, we know that!  But stepping outside for that short break is to refresh you from your work.  Part of that refreshment comes from breathing in good air and oxygenating your blood and clearing your head.  Part of that comes from walking around so that your limbs don’t think your only physical posture is sitting.  But one last part of that refreshment is stepping away from “work” for a moment and remembering individual people.  Asking about them and how they are doing and in that way you can gain insight, in some small way, as to why they work as hard as you do.

Historical Husqvarna

One of the things I enjoy about our business is getting to know the stories behind the companies and products we use.  While we use plenty of Husqvarna products here at the Rental Center, Sweden (the home of Husqvarna) is not anywhere close to Monticello, NY.

As early as 1680, Huskvarna, a small town in Sweden, was home to a manufacturer of rifles.  This company supplied not just the Swedish, but also the Norwegian army, with rifles.  As time went on, however, the company moved on to sewing machines and bicycles and diversified out of weapons.  The Husqvarna we know today makes a lot of products and they use the older form of the Swedish name that has a “q” not a “k” in it.

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Husqvarna today is the largest producer of outdoor power products in the world!  They make garden tractors, chainsaws, trimmers, and even robotic lawn mowers.  Consumers and businesses in over 100 countries use their products.  Their stated mission is simple yet ambitious: “We provide innovative quality products and solutions to make garden, park and forest care as well as construction easier for professionals and consumers around the world.”

Often our customers rent our products with a specific project in mind that will be completed for a specific purpose and across a set amount of time.  Husqvarna takes a longer view of its products and their usefulness.  Their vision is: “We envision a world where people can enjoy well maintained gardens, parks and forests and experience refined buildings and roads.”  That’s not a one time project.  That’s an ongoing task and it assumes quality products and manufacturing so that you can rely on your tools and not worry about them breaking down.

We are a full-line Husqvarna dealer and carry all of their products for rental.  As always – if we can help answer your questions about equipment rental in general or about Husqvarna specifically, drop us a line.  We are proud to be your Husqvarna dealer in Monticello, New York.

Three Key Equipment Maintenance Times

We have several responsibilities to our customers here at The Rental Center of Monticello.  We rent equipment to customers – and that equipment is well-maintained and well-functioning.  But we also service that equipment, and as such we often have casual (and serious) advice that we pass on to our customers for self-maintenance.

Maintenance – that thing we often neglect because modern machines well enough that we forget that we have to maintain them!  So as temperatures start to rise as we slowly amble towards summer – at least here in Monticello – we wanted to share some important tips for maintaining your equipment whether it’s as basic as a mower or as complicated as a backhoe.  We wanted to arrange these by the “Times” of maintenance.

Daily

Certain things have to be done every day.  If you’re the type who forgets things, a checklist is best (In fact, even if you have an excellent memory, a checklist still provides a method and fall back to this part of your duties).  Some things to watch on a daily basis:

When doing a visual inspection

  • Look for worn parts

  • Look for signs of oil or coolant leakage

  • Check oil/coolant/hydraulics levels and fill as necessary

  • Lubricate parts that need daily grease

  • Check air filter

  • Check tire pressure

  • Check chains and belts for slack

  • Clean dirt and debris out of the machine (you don’t have to do a deep cleaning) and make sure caps are sealed

  • Make sure safety equipment and signage is properly displayed and that exterior lighting is functioning

  • If there’s trash or other debris in the cab – take it out.  While you’re in there, check on the seat belts.

Quarterly

The prevailing wisdom is that 500 service hours is when you should have some additional maintenance done outside of the suggestions we bulleted above.  The oil filter, hydraulic oil filter, and the oil itself need to be changed.  Some argue this should be done every three months regardless of usage and there definitely is some merit to that school of thought but each individual operator can make a decision on when is best – as long as they understand the principle of periodic maintenance beyond the above-mentioned daily tasks.

End of Season

It’s time to put things away at the end of the season.  Don’t forget to:

  • Change the hydraulic oil and transmission fluid

  • Check the antifreeze to make sure it’s ready for winter

  • Check belts and hoses

  • Make sure that you have arctic or blended fuel in the tank.  If you do end up needing your equipment you don’t want the fuel line clogged with summer-weight fuel that you forgot to drain

  • Wash the entire vehicle.  Make sure the undercarriage and engine get special attention.  Check the air conditioning and interior lighting – replace bulbs as necessary.

  • If the tires need changing – better to do them now than during the season so you minimize  your down time.

Heavy equipment, like all machinery, has a useful life and a strong justification for purchase will be the commitment to the maintenance.  Some of us remember begging our mom to let us take the puppy home and heard her remind us that we had to clean it and take it to the bathroom and feed it and take care of it and we nodded our heads earnestly.  Your excavator isn’t likely to lick your feet with a wagging backhoe to remind you to take care of it.  As we said above – the quality of the machinery can lull us into a false sense of security that the machinery works “because it works.”

As we’ve said other times on this blog, a big part of why people people might choose to rent first instead of buy is because it provides them with an opportunity to try before buying.  They can see if the equipment does what they need it to do and then return it without having to do any maintenance at all.  We take care of that for you before and after the rental.  You can also have conversations with us either before, during, or after your rental as you figure out what option makes the most sense for you and your project or ongoing work.

As always, we are here to answer any and all questions about equipment rental, and after today’s post, we hope you see that we can hopefully answer some of your maintenance questions as well.

As this article goes to press we are on the verge of Memorial Day weekend.  We here at the Rental Center of Monticello are grateful for the service our veterans have given to our country and we hope that you take some time to remember them throughout this weekend and on Monday especially.