Puckett Machinery completes phase one of expansion plans

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Published: July 3,2006

Jackson — On June 22, Puckett Machinery cut the ribbon on the first of a three-phase, $10-million expansion, part of the Caterpillar heavy equipment and engine dealer’s long-term plan to grow its already significant presence in Mississippi.

The first phase, representing a capital investment of $4 million, adds a new, 38,000-square-foot primary service center and renovated office space to Puckett’s 25-acre site on U.S. 80 East in Jackson, which has served as the company’s headquarters for more than 60 years. It also includes 5,800 square feet of space for training and a technical center.

“Mississippi’s construction, electric power generation and trucking industries are unbelievably competitive,” said Richard Puckett, president and CEO of Puckett Machinery. “A great many successful Mississippi companies depend on us to come through for them every day. That’s a tremendous responsibility, and we take it seriously. The desire to provide an unmatched level of support drives every decision we make, and I believe that by completing this new facility, we’ve made one more giant leap in that direction.”

Puckett’s new, state-of-the-art primary service facility is where the majority of the Jackson operation’s heavy equipment repair work is conducted, and it was built to handle the load both today and tomorrow. Construction called for 120 tons of steel building, 1,751 cubic yards of concrete covering 72,000 square feet and 36 tons of rebar. The facility, which took nine months to complete, houses eight five-ton overhead cranes.

It also encompasses extra large service bays. John Chesney, Puckett’s director of human resources and advertising, said the expanded bays could accommodate more than one piece of equipment at a time, which is a hot trend in the industry today.

The Jackson facility currently employs approximately 180 workers, representing an annual payroll of $10 million. Puckett said that its expansion, which has been planned since 2004, would add 40 to 50 new jobs.

Part of the company’s phase-two expansion is already apparent in the new Engine Division facility, which is located directly across from the company’s headquarters and new primary service facility. The Engine Division facility, which is expected to be in operation this July, will serve as the hub of Puckett’s electric power generation, marine engine and truck engine activities.

Phases two and three also entail major renovation of existing buildings along with a host of other property improvements. Chesney said no definitive dates for completion of phases two and three have been set.

Puckett said, “Our business philosophy is really pretty simple — serve the customer better than anyone else out there.”

It would seem that approach has been as successful as it is simple. Puckett Machinery traces its roots back to the 1940s. Originally located in downtown Jackson, the Caterpillar dealership moved to its present location on U.S. 80 in 1942. And, in 1950, it opened its second location in Gulfport.

Three years later, Ben Puckett joined the company as an accountant after serving in the U.S. Air Force. In 1962, Puckett, along with two partners, bought the company, which by that time had expanded into Natchez and Meridian.

Since then, Puckett Machinery has seen steady growth both in the number of operations and Puckett family owners and senior management. Ben Puckett became sole owner of the company in 1982, and Richard Puckett was named president in 1988. In 1994, Ben Puckett sold the company to his sons, Richard, John and Ben. Last year, Richard Puckett’s son, Hastings Puckett, bought the majority of the stock of Ben and John and was named vice president of sales.

Today, Puckett has operations in Jackson, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Meridian, Natchez, Richland, Biloxi and Brookhaven offering service, sales and rentals through its Puckett Rents business unit that was established in 1998 and has since grown to locations in Biloxi, Hattiesburg, Jackson and Gluckstadt.

Puckett’s expansion plans were hatched before Hurricane Katrina made landfall last August. Chesney said that business was good before Katrina, but the company does expect a lot more business as rebuilding gets into full swing, though the storm heavily impacted Puckett’s Coast operations. Nearly 60 employees had their homes damaged or destroyed, but Chesney said the company and its team are running at full strength now.

And, he feels the company is going to need everybody it has.

“It’s incredible how busy we are,” Chesney said.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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