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MISSISSIPPI 100 — ‘Our wagon is not tied to one star,’ says CEO of Louisville’s versatile Taylor Group

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A Taylor XLC-975 prepares to move cargo containers at the Port of Miami.

By LISA MONTI

The Taylor Group of Companies based in Louisville began in 1927 as a small automotive and repair business, and today has 1,000 employees, an international customer base and more than $400 million in annual sales.

Lex Taylor, chairman and CEO of the Taylor Group, represents the third generation to run the business along with his brother Robert Taylor Sr. and sister Teresa Ktsanes. Their company thrives on customer service, quality and diversified products.

“The beauty of it is we are not tied to just transportation or wood or steel. We are able to supply and support customers in a cross section of businesses. Our wagon is not tied to one star,” Taylor said.

Business continues to be good, he said. “We’re blessed and hoping for growth in 2016 over 2015. We’ve been growing ever since the crash of 2009 and we’re very pleased with the growth since that huge recession.”

Taylor said in the first half of 2015 a big driver for his business was the oil and gas boom, which fell off about mid-year. Intermodal business at ports has been good for the company this year but the metals industries, particularly steel, have been off this year.

“Wood is back and strong in Mississippi and the Southeast and that’s a great shot in the arm,” he said.

The Taylor Group consists of Taylor Machine Works Inc., Sudden Service Inc., Taylor Power Systems Inc. and Taylor Leasing & Rental.

The flagship is Taylor Machine Works, which the family touts as the only privately held manufacturer of industrial lift trucks in the U.S.

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W.A. Taylor Sr., who opened his small automotive and repair business in Louisville, was an inventive entrepreneur. He made the first conventional timber skidder in 1937 to load timber more easily and later transformed it into a mobile unit. From there he branched out into product lines for agriculture and forestry.

Over the past 88 years the Taylor business has grown into an international sales operation network with more than 100 models of industrial lift equipment which its employees design, engineer and manufacture under the Big Red brand. The trucks can lift between 16,000 and 120,000 pounds.

Today’s massive machines are put to work in changing out jumbo jet engines, maneuvering concrete culverts weighing tons, moving containers between ships and rail among other tasks that require strength and precision.

Another subsidiary of the Taylor Group is Taylor Power Systems which provides standby power where it’s needed for the medical industry, correctional institutions, industrial office complexes and across the spectrum of customers.

Sudden Services is the exclusive worldwide distributor of Taylor parts and forklift service for equipment the company makes and sells. The 97,000-square-foot distribution and operations center in Mississippi is in Philadelphia.

Taylor Power Systems, based in Clinton,  makes and sells standby generators, prime power and agricultural generators.

Taylor Leasing & Rental is the subsidiary  that provides competitive finance and lease solutions for Taylor equipment.

CEO Taylor said in the early 1990s the family saw an opportunity to break out the various businesses into standalone operations. “We saw the benefits of these divisions standing on their own and striving for excellence,” he said.

Today, the Taylor Group continues in a supporting role. “We provide overall managerial and financial support as well as human resources and IT support so they can grow the core business.”

Taylor said the company focus is on the customer and building a quality product. “Quality and integrity are what customers know us for and come back to us for. We’re proud of that.”

Taylor said there is “a constant evolution” in finding the next market and product innovation but there are no plans to introduce new products any time soon.

“We always look where markets lead us to new product development,” he said. “And we listen to our customers.”

While the Taylor Group remains a family owned and run enterprise, Taylor said, “We are happy to have second and third generation families that have come through the business with us. We consider them our employee family and are pleased to have them prosper.”

About Lisa Monti

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