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Summer 2011

Big paver job leads to new career

As his paver and retaining wall installation business evolved over the past decade, Rod Steele was faced with some important equipment decisions. Bobcat compact loaders and attachments provided the solutions.

Rod Steele, Steele and Associates

Rod Steele, Steele and Associates

"A large skid-steer loader, a larger compact track loader, mini track loaders, an assortment of attachments — whatever I needed I found just the right equipment at my local Bobcat West store," says Steele, owner of Steele and Associates in Bellingham, Wash. "Without this equipment I would still be working behind a desk."

That's exactly what Steele was doing 10 years ago — working in a company finance department — when an acquaintance asked him if he was interested in installing a 30,000-square-foot-paver parking lot. "I said, 'sure, why not?' I had some experience doing construction, so I figured it was worth a try," he says.

The first thing he did was purchase a Bobcat® 873 skid-steer loader to move the pavers around. That job turned out so well that Steele, who had studied design in school, decided to stay in the hardscape business, but kept his day job and hired others to help him.

Most of the growth for the company occurred in residential work and Steele discovered that the 873 was just too large to work in limited access areas. The dealer recommended a MT52 mini track loader.

"The MT52 turned out to be a big time- and labor-saver," Steele says. "We use it to excavate, deliver materials to the installation site and clean up. No more shovels and wheelbarrows."

One of Rod Steele's finished paver projects, where he used his Bobcat mini track loader.

One of Rod Steele's finished paver projects, where he used his Bobcat mini track loader.

The 20-horsepower MT52 — just 36 inches wide with bucket — is perfect for working in small spaces.

Steele continued to use the 873 to unload trucks and move materials around. Eventually weather conditions convinced him of the need for a compact track loader. A powerful T320 replaced the skid-steer loader.

"We get so much rain that track machines are a necessity," Steele says. "Without track loaders we would be shut down for significant periods of time."

His all-track lineup also includes a 25-horsepower MT55, a slightly bigger, more powerful version of the MT52. Only 44-inches wide with bucket, the MT55 can carry a load of pavers in a single trip. Rubber tracks keep the mini track machines working in soft ground conditions.

Steele gets all his work through referrals and oftentimes has a waiting list. Many of his residential projects are for clients willing to pay for something that nobody else has.

"They want something unique," he says. "That's where the ability to design and install has been a big advantage for us. Our jobs are artistically driven with intricate design and lots of color. Most of the materials we install are special orders."

With jobs ranging in size from small walkways to 80,000 square feet of pavers at a corporate headquarters, Steele takes full advantage of the many Bobcat attachments he uses with the mini track loaders — buckets, pallet forks, sweeper, backhoe and dozer blade.

"They allow us to work on a project from start to finish without relying on others or additional equipment, and to do the job once and move on," he says. "That's why I've come to rely on the great equipment Bobcat makes."