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Riding a boom to a profit

Very happy birthday for equipment-rental firm C & T

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FIFTEEN years ago, Ed Dwyer didn't know if his equipment-rental business was going to be able to survive on just the Winnipeg market.

But today, C & T Rentals is celebrating its 25th anniversary with the opening of a third location at the Brookside Industrial Park, which is the first phase of development at CentrePort.

Dwyer figures he's in exactly the right spot.

"There is going to be billions of dollars worth of construction here in the next 20 years and they're going to have to drive right by our shop to get there," he said optimistically.

He has reason to feel good about the future. He's already got about $7 million worth of rental equipment for the industrial-construction sector as well as the do-it-yourself crowd.

After getting started by renting temporary heating for the winter construction season, he branched into compaction equipment for the summer season.

The transplanted Newfoundlander then started expanding to satisfy growing demand for generators, lighting stands, pumps and hundreds of other items.

The latest expansion will move his independent operation into larger equipment such as forklifts, 60-foot boom lifts and scissor lifts.

That's going to mean even more millions he'll be investing in the company over the coming years as well as hiring another five to 10 people on top of the 25 he already employs.

Dwyer is confident the demand is there.

"Fifteen years ago it was very, very quiet here. Everybody had to fight for jobs," he said. "Now there are so many projects out there and as far as I can tell there's a shortage of equipment."

Mandy Wellnitz, executive director of the Canadian Rental Association (CRA), said as the construction industry goes, so goes the rental business.

"And the construction business is doing very well, especially in Western Canada," she said.

Wellnitz is in Winnipeg this weekend for CRA board meetings. Dwyer is the president of the organization.

With several hundred members across the country, the industry is dominated by large national players such as United Rental, Hertz Equipment Rental and Battlefield, the Cat Rental Store, which control about 75 per cent of the market in Manitoba.

About 85 per cent of C & T's business comes from the construction sector, with the rest coming from the growing do-it-yourself crowd renting items such as air compressors, dehumidifiers, drills, grinders, post-hole diggers, sanders, saws and trenchers -- and getting them delivered to the door.

Wellnitz said more homeowners are realizing the benefits of renting equipment. She said people are finding they will spend just as much money buying inferior equipment they may not know how to operate properly and then watch it collect dust in the workshop.

"On the other hand, renting better-quality equipment -- and getting trained on how to use it -- might end up costing just the same," she said.

C & T's new 10,000-square-foot, two-storey building will specialize in large equipment. The company's Scurfield Boulevard location caters more to the do-it-yourself market and its Dugald Road site has equipment targeted to the road-building companies located in the area.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 22, 2012 B4

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