71 Years of 'Growing Mentality' at Highway Equipment & Supply Co.

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Updated Nov 15, 2022
Highway Equipment & Supply Co. owners in front of company sign
Vince Pagano and Ryan Flood at Highway Equipment & Supply Co.'s Ephrata, Pennsylvania, branch.
Equipment World

Highway Equipment & Supply Co. got its start in 1951 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and family members of the founders are still running the much-expanded dealership today.

What began in Harrisburg has increased to four branches in the state, carrying more than 15 brands of construction equipment, attachments and trailers.

Its signature brand is Volvo Construction Equipment, which named Highway Equipment & Supply its 2021 Dealer of the Year. The award came during the dealership’s 70th year in business for its “consistent high performance in all areas including customer uptime, service offerings and share performance over time.” Those qualities and more have earned Highway Equipment & Supply a finalist position for Equipment World’s 2022 Big Iron Dealer of the Year Award.

At the helm today are Ryan Flood and Vince Pagano. Neither had plans to join the family business, but fate had other plans. It brought the two together to form a strong partnership that is helping to grow the company in revenue, product offerings and customer services.

“We work really well together on a day-to-day basis,” Flood says. “It's an operation of just under 100 people, and we don't have many management levels. So we're very involved day to day. And we like it that way. We collaborate on everything that affects the company.”

Pagano agrees.

“We're involved in every facet of the business,” he says. “… Our goal is to bring continuity with all of the policies and procedural things, so you're not running rogue in any particular area, and then help employees be more effective and efficient. So that's our goal, to manage that collectively. And that's been a pretty successful collaboration.”

Highway Equipment & Supply owners in front of Volvo A30G articulated dump truckVolvo articulated dump trucks are one of the top sellers for Highway Equipment & Supply Co.'s mining and quarry customers.Equipment WorldPagano, senior vice president, joined the company in 2000 after being approached by his step-father, Michael Liptak, company president. Pagano had been selling insurance in New Jersey at the time. His wife was interested in moving back to Pennsylvania to be closer to family. He started out in equipment sales and moved up the ladder.

Flood joined in 2009 after a stint working on Capitol Hill. His wife was pregnant, so they moved back to Pennslyvania to be closer to family. Flood also started selling equipment.

At the time, Pagano and Flood didn’t know each other, but they soon found they had a common interest in growing the dealership. Today, they each run two of the four branches, which are located in Harrisburg, Ephrata, Lock Haven and Drums. They collaborate on running the entire business in hands-on fashion. They have an open-door policy for employees and make a point of being seen regularly at the four locations.

Flood attributes being able to retain employees for decades to their management approach.

“It's the lack of a corporate culture,” he explains. “You're not a number. We know your name. … We walk through the shops. We’re engaged with the employees.”

The partners have also worked with their employees in instituting policies and procedures to help improve customer service. One example of this is how they have increased their parts inventory. In times past, they could rely on a steady stream of OEM parts, but the supply-chain shortages have led them to try different strategies.

“We have some pretty experienced aftermarket support people that are looking for other avenues of sourcing parts,” Pagano says. “… As long as it's cost effective and there’s a warranty and we can get it, it's going on a piece of equipment.”

Highway Equipment & Supply parts manager at deskChris Wincovitch, parts manager for Highway Equipment & Supply's Ephrata branchEquipment WorldThey also sought out employee input when they set out to meet the demands of the company tagline: “going the extra mile.” To focus on that goal, they pulled representatives of each department to discuss it. One of the overarching themes was communication.

“The biggest thing that separates this company from anybody else is communication,” Pagano says. “Communication should be No. 1, frequent and effective.”

For the dealership, that means constant communication with customers to let them know the status of orders, rather than just waiting until the part arrives.

“With parts delays these days, don't wait until the parts show up three weeks later to tell the customer, ’Hey, I finally got your parts,’” Pagano says. “Give them an update, send an email, even if it's once a week, ‘Hey, just letting you know, we're still waiting on your parts. We’ll keep in touch. If there are any questions, give me a call.’ Those little things are very important, and it all centers around communication.”

The dealership also created a customer support team on telematics. They have a designated person to work solely on telematics and is a liaison with Volvo. They also set up an internal IT person to perform software updates in the field to free up wrench time for technicians. Their veteran mechanic is also their go-to expert. “So if our technicians run into an issue, rather than call the manufacturer first, we call our in-house help,” Pagano says.

Highway Equipment & Supply technicians working on Volvo wheel loader in shopHighway Equipment & Supply has developed relationships with vocational schools for recruiting technicians.Equipment WorldAs with most dealerships, recruiting technicians has proved challenging for Highway Equipment & Supply.

Flood spends a lot of time recruiting at local vocational schools on the high school and post secondary level. The company has a partnership with Penn College in Williamsport. He knows the instructors and gets to know the first-year students through one-on-one conversations before the career fairs.

“And then when the career fair comes, I'll stop by and get reacquainted,” he says. “And then when they graduate, hopefully, we'll have a relationship there in place. So they're not just out job hunting with all the competitors.”

The school has a Volvo EC220 excavator that was lent to it for instruction. Flood also sits on advisory boards for post secondary schools, and the company participates in SkillsUSA.

It has also set up a career path for young technicians, so they know what to expect and keep them interested in staying with the company. They start out working with senior technicians in the shop and over time progress to more responsibilities.  

Highway Equipment & Supply exterior of dealership with Volvo wheeled excavator in foregroundHighway Equipment & Supply Co. was named Volvo Construction Equipment's 2021 Dealer of the Year, which was also the company's 70th year in business.Equipment WorldThe northeastern Pennsylvania market has been a growing one for Highway Equipment & Supply. The population has been increasing, also bringing in more residential and commercial construction work, as well as landscaping. Farming and mining are still holding firm. And they have roadbuilding and municipal customers.

Compact equipment has been one of the biggest growth areas, with about 70% of sales now in that category. In the past two years it signed an agreement to sale ASV skid steers and compact track loaders. It also sells Bobcat brand compact equipment.

One of its customers recently received the dealership’s first delivery of electric equipment, a Volvo ECR25 battery-powered compact excavator. Its first Volvo compact electric wheel loader is expected for December delivery.

Pagano and Flood are keeping an eye on the electric market as one for potential growth, although much uncertainty remains.

“We're still trying to figure all that out, and we're going to have some real serious discussions with the sales staff about analyzing their own individual markets about opportunities with that,” Flood said. “It's where things are going. But it might depend on the region, the state.”

On the traditional equipment side, the dealership continues to expand into other brands, most recently for attachments and roadbuilding equipment with Morbark and Blaw Knox.

It has no intentions of slowing down.

“We're growing. We have a growing mentality,” Flood says. “We just brought on a couple more lines.

“The pandemic certainly set us back with our expectations and where we're going to be, but our mindset is, we’re relatively young, and we'd like to grow and expand this business.”