Business Owner’s Big Heart Shines Through Community Projects

Published on December 13, 2023

For Tom Smith, a piece of equipment is much more than a tool to complete a job — it is integral to serving the village he loves. A remote community of about 240 people, the Village of Teslin in Yukon, Canada, is located along the historic Alaska Highway and home to the Teslin Inland Tlingit First Nations.  

Tom has called the Village of Teslin home his entire life, and his family traces back its history in the community hundreds of years. “There is a very strong connection with everybody in town,” he says. “When I help people out, I am not only helping individuals, but I am also helping family. If one person needs help today, you pitch in because you may need help tomorrow. We look out for each other.” 

And when it comes time to pitch in, Tom’s Bobcat® equipment and his deep sense of service are a powerful duo in enhancing village life.

Giving Back in ‘Bobcat Time’ 

Tom started his hometown business, TNT Enterprises, in 2009 as a simple community service offering snow removal. Initially, he lacked proper equipment for the job, but he did what he could with a four-wheeled ATV. His first business investment the following year was an early ‘80s Bobcat 825 skid-steer loader. Though it had more than 10,000 hours on it when he bought it, he recognized its dependability would become an incalculable asset to the village. Soon, his business expanded to offer highway construction, finishing work, landscaping, backfilling and water line installation.  

“I ran it for years,” Tom says of his first machine, noting its reliability even at an advanced age. “Once it had 15,000 hours on it, it was an easy decision to buy another Bobcat loader.” 

Business boomed, and the reliability of Tom’s equipment enabled him to throw in some free service hours for his customers. “I just take care of oil changes and filter changes, and the machines just keep going,” says Tom, who later purchased a Bobcat S130 skid-steer loader and a Bobcat S570 skid-steer loader. “I know I have the cushion of reliability to offer help. I can give them an extra hour of work free because I know my machines run really well.” 

He dubbed the bonus “Bobcat time.” Because he hasn’t had to budget for reliability problems, he can pass along the benefit to customers. “The time I might otherwise be in the shop making repairs, I’m able to put toward helping the community,” he says. “I have been able to help out low-income families and elders with services free of charge so things can be a little easier on them.”  

His business is also a fixture at community events, such as the winter festival called the Teslin Mini-Rendezvous. As contestants compete in traditional outdoor games, Tom offers a few hours of his “Bobcat time” as a prize. 

Blazing Trails for Community Connections 

One opportunity to make a big impact in Tom’s community came partly by chance. Teslin planned to construct trails through a swampy area to help connect residents in different neighborhoods. Initially, he was not set to take the lead on the project. But as work began in 2021, the heavy track machines assigned to the project started sinking in the swamp. They had to be pulled off the job, and work stalled. That’s when Tom rolled up to rescue the project with his Bobcat S570 skid-steer loader.  

“I’m not as heavy as a track machine, but I still have the track capabilities,” he says, explaining that he overlays the tracks onto his tires. “It ended up working perfectly. I was light enough that I was able to float across the muskeg, and we were able to complete the trail.” 

I know I have the cushion of reliability to offer someone help. I can give them an extra hour free because I know my machines run really well.

Tom Smith

Owner of TNT Enterprises

These trails provided community members on different sides of the village practical ways to get together. They also offered an important safety consideration. No longer did people have to walk along the highway to get from one part of the town to the other.  

“It was easier for people to meet up and go for a walk together,” Tom says. “Elders can visit someone by taking the trail instead of driving all the way around the community. They also enjoy taking walks along the trails to pick berries in the summer.” 

Slinging Sand for 97 Consecutive Days 

At Teslin’s far northern latitude, the seasonal changes are dramatic. For Tom, that means his wide selection of attachments is critical to meeting the demands of the day. He has a pallet fork loader, an auger, an angle broom and a snow blade.   

The winter of 2021-2022 in Yukon was unrelenting. It was the snowiest December since 1980 and the second highest total ever recorded for that month. It snowed more than 21 days, and the snowy trend continued into the spring. Teslin recorded about 10 feet of snow, with mountain areas accumulating far higher amounts. When the thawing finally arrived, there was an inevitability: flooding. Tom stepped up for his community yet again and tried to ensure that as many homes as possible would be protected.  

“My skid-steer worked 97 days straight filling sandbags and placing sandbags,” he said of the response to extraordinary flooding in the spring.  

When families and their homes were at risk, Tom spent more than three months in his skid-steer loader. “We had a huge problem going on in Teslin,” he says. “I think my machine alone must have filled 5,000 2-ton bags of sand.  

The village rallied with him. In all, 11 Bobcat skid-steer loaders were on the job. Collectively they filled about 15,000 2-ton sandbags and 100,000 small sandbags. “It was quite an undertaking to save these homes,” he recalls. “We had all the loaders from Teslin working as well as some rentals that we got from another town because the water was coming up so high.” 

Man and Machine Put Community First 

In small towns, the line between business and volunteering is often blurred. What matters is not the distinction between the two but serving the community. And, due to its versatility and reliability, Tom’s loader is an extension of himself: ready for any job that will help the village.  

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