Equipment Corporation of America (ECA) has grown into what is now a third-generation-run company, as longtime members and supporters of AED and The AED Foundation. ECA is also continuously looking toward the future by supporting programs and policies that will help build up the next generation of heavy equipment workers.
The company achieved a major milestone in 2018, when it celebrated its centennial. The roots of the Coraopolis, Pennsylvania-based equipment supplier extends decades back, when current CEO Roy Kern Jr.’s grandfather purchased ECA in the 1950s. Under the Kern leadership, the company has grown to nine locations – including six full-service offices and three additional sales offices – that employs approximately 90 employees, while offering its products and services to clients in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Southeast and Eastern Canada.
“We operate east of the Mississippi, from Toronto down to Florida,” Kern Jr. says. “We’ve been involved in every major stadium built east of the Mississippi.”
Such big projects mean skilled workers are a must. “We’re always looking for people. Our equipment is getting more and more complicated. It used to be simple diesel and hydraulic setups. Now we have Tier 4 computers, Controlled Area Network (CAN) bus and sophisticated hydraulics.” To do the job right, the right skill set is crucial.
Accordingly, they have long supported Associated Equipment Distributors and The AED Foundation. ECA has been an AED member for more than 75 years and has supported the Foundation, regularly contributing to its annual campaign and live auction.
Kern served as The AED Foundation’s chairman from 2014-2015 and served other positions on the board for approximately eight years . He admits that when he was asked to join, “it sounded intriguing, but I didn’t know a lot about The AED Foundation at that point. It became a real learning experience for me. It really helped me take a look at how we handle parts and service training.” Under his watch he helped approve the first College of William & Mary study on what the skills gap is costing the industry. “We also funded a new Learning Management System for online education … and started a new generation of online training studies. In addition, we took a hard look at where our AED-accredited technical colleges were – looking for holes where coverage was needed. We tried to find schools and help members location-wise.
“(As a board member) I got a real taste for how important the education is to our industry and in North America. Without proper education and a supply of educated technical help, we’re in a situation where we can’t grow and service infrastructure needs coming up in the next 20 to 30 years.”
On the local front, Kern has been working with Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, to get more students out of the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas, train them for heavy equipment careers, and get them out in the workforce filling labor shortages.
“We also have a lot of involvement in Fleming College (just outside Toronto), and several colleges throughout the eastern U.S., working on drill rig operator training. The skill set to operate a drill rig, working tools underground – you need expertise,” Kern says. “We’re working to improve education and training,” in part by communicating with colleges and unions. One such drill rig training site is at ECA’s Jacksonville, Florida, plant. Working with the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO), ECA is also offering drill rig certification. “We’re actively working to help develop this program,” he says. The Jacksonville training site is the first in their niche of the industry, Kern explains.
Programs like those are crucial for safety and productivity in heavy equipment, he adds.
As for The AED Foundation resources, “we utilize education venues – forums and leadership conferences.” ECA has its parts service managers complete online certification programs, and many employees are sent to seminars. “We’ve found those to be an excellent source of industry knowledge. We also use the Foundation as a resource on intelligence and best practices within the construction equipment industry.
“It’s important to give back when running a company and the best way to do so is to help the next generation entering the workforce. The AED Foundation does great job helping those looking to further their careers by offering both, certification and industry educational programs.”
To help ensure that, it’s vital to get into high schools and vocational schools, Kern adds. “We need to be proactive to ensure that there are qualified technicians available, to avoid shortages. We also need to support trade associations, like AED and The AED Foundation by getting involved and actively promoting professional development.”
Your contribution fuels the work that allows The AED Foundation to develop a dealer model for success. The future of dealerships depend on how we come together to build our industry’s workforce. Thank you, Equipment Corporation of America for investing in the future of our industry. To contribute to The AED Foundation annual campaign, visit