A lunch meeting and some industry networking led Todd Hystad of Vimar Equipment Ltd. to his ongoing involvement with The AED Foundation.
His AED contacts, in fact, are what led the president of the Burnaby, British Columbia-based heavy equipment distributor – which focuses on municipal product lines – to purchase the then family-owned business in 2010.
Hystad has taken on a greater role with the Foundation over the years, even serving on the board of directors.
“I got involved because it’s important to have a strong dealer community and network,” Hystad says. “We compete, but we have a lot of challenges we need to work on together.”
Vimar has a decades-long history, with more than 40 years of selling, renting and servicing new and used sewer equipment, street sweepers, ice resurfacing equipment, garbage collection vehicles, street flushers and other municipal and contractor gear. Since buying Vimar, Hystad has led the company through some changes, essentially building on its municipal works.
“In the last 10 years we’ve migrated a bit to diversify into the contractor business – oil and gas – as well as municipal,” Hystad says. The same technology is used to dig holes and expose lines, so it’s a good fit.
Hystad’s company has about 20 employees at its Canadian Vimar location, and approximately another 20 at its True North Emergency Equipment distributor in Hillsboro, Oregon.
As for The AED Foundation goals, Hystad’s voice joins the many in the distribution industry who are always on the hunt for schooled talent. “As a (Foundation) leader, one of our largest core challenges as a group is the recruiting and training of talent in our industry. We need mechanics and parts people.”
“For me it’s largely a mentorship; there are some very bright people, and I love to bounce ideas off them.”
As a Canadian company, Vimar faces some of the same challenges its U.S. counterparts do.
Canada does have a national certification option in place for much of the country, the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. “We have the program, but not enough kids to go into it,” Hystad says. “Our focus is to entice kids to look at it as a career option. All graduates are consumed instantly.” It’s not always the kids and teens who need to be turned on to the industry. “Sometimes it’s the parents who need to be incentivized, because there’s still a stigma.” The industry needs to work on that. "More people need to be made aware that the hours are great and that the field offers a comfortable income," Hystad stated, "and jobs aren’t limited to one area or region; the need for manpower is pretty much everywhere.
“What’s cool about the jobs in the distribution industry these days is it's as the technology shifts and machines become more complex, it’s less wrench and more laptop.”
A big draw for Hystad was that most people he deals with are from small to mid-size dealers, and they don’t have the wealth of resources that massive companies and manufacturers generally have. The resources that The AED Foundation provides like the professional development and educational opportunities available are vital tools for any company of any size, but especially the smaller ones. They can devote more time to selling and servicing that way.
Hystad is simply happy to serve. “I love to give back to this great industry.”