Rental leaders to be named to the Rental Hall of Fame

Carl Newman and the late Melvin Williams will be formally inducted during a ceremony at The Rental Show in New Orleans on Feb. 19.

The American Rental Association (ARA) created the Rental Hall of Fame in 2000 to foster an appreciation of the historical development of the rental industry and the leaders who helped the industry grow and expand.

Each year, nominations are accepted to recognize individuals who have made a substantial impact on the industry at the national or international level. The induction ceremony is held annually during The Rental Show keynote session. 

The new inductees are Carl Newman and the late Melvin Williams.. 

Carl Newman
Carl Newman joined the American Rental Association in 1989 as the owner of A&A Rentals and Sales in Sevierville, Tenn. Five years after joining the association, he began a 17-year run of leadership on the state and national levels. His dedication to the equipment rental industry has included terms as ARA president and ARA of Tennessee president, meeting with a sitting U.S. president to discuss the industry and impacting the worldwide growth of equipment rental.

Newman’s impact on ARA and the industry has footprints throughout Tennessee, California, the entire U.S.  and even Australia. He joined the ARA of Tennessee board of directors as vice president in 1994 and became president a year later. This led to serving as ARA Region Three Director from 2001-2004. In 2002, he attended ARA’s National Legislative Caucus in Washington, D.C. It was there he was selected as one of four delegates for a briefing on small business issues held by President George W. Bush at the White House. Newman demonstrated his knowledge of the business aspect of the rental industry by reporting on ARA concerns that affect members. He received the Meritorious Service Award at The Rental Show in 2002.

Newman served on many ARA committees, shared interest groups and task forces before being elected as ARA president for 2006. It was during this time on the ARA board of directors he played an instrumental role in California, Region Nine and Australia. He joined the discussions and negotiations with the California Rental Association aimed to establish an affiliation. It appeared many times that representatives from both sides would break off talks, but Newman helped get discussions back on track. He insisted that common ground could be found, and it was. His leadership ultimately led to the establishment of the ARA of California and the regeneration of Region Nine.

As the ARA board chair in 2007, Newman’s influence in Australia on behalf of the association resulted in the creation of the ARA Foundation’s International Rental Business Leadership Program. He sat down with Andy Kennard, the owner of Kennard’s Hire based in Sydney, Australia. Their conversation surrounded their rental-related experiences and friendships formed with people throughout the world. Following that conversation, Newman learned Kennard’s Hire had pledged $10,000 to start the International Rental Business Leadership Program. A formal program began in 2008.

Newman’s realization that good leadership is important for the association was understood when he was part of the group that helped formulate ARA’s strategic plan. He strived to make sure the plan was relevant, fully deployable and flexible so it could be adapted as times change. 

Today, Newman remains active in his business and ARA of Tennessee events, and attends The Rental Show. He consistently looks for ways to help his fellow rental owners and operators, improve his own business and give back to the equipment rental industry.

Melvin Williams
Melvin “Mel” Williams, the founder of Rent-A-Tool in Revere, Mass., was one of the early pioneers in the equipment rental industry. After serving in World War II, he opened Rent-A-Tool in 1954, two years before the founding of the American Rental Association. While it took time for word of ARA to spread from the Midwest, Williams was instrumental in bringing other equipment rental businesses together on the East Coast. Together with other rental businessmen in the Boston area, he created the Northeast Rental Equipment Association. The association eventually became known as the American Rental Association of Massachusetts. 

Rent-A-Tool became an ARA member in 1963, and Williams soon became a well-respected authority on the equipment rental industry. He was an ambassador for non-members to join and become involved with ARA. He also was looked upon for assistance from other members who joined him at state and region meetings.

Williams was an innovator when it came to his rental inventory and processes. His creation of quality control, inventory management and yard management solutions are still seen throughout the industry today. He also was known to have no fear in expanding his rental inventory on hard-to-find items.

His claim to fame in the industry came with the development and enhancement of the portable diesel generator business. He was well-known for his marketing of these generators during the Northeast Niagara Falls blackout in 1965. He also shipped generators all over the U.S. during severe blackouts, floods and hurricanes.

He attended The Rental Show for 35 consecutive years, where he became an East Coast authority in the industry. At the show, manufacturers would often wait to get Williams’ opinion on new styles or designs of generators before marketing them in the industry. He was an expert on sound attenuation, series paralleling, expanding fuel consumption and other applications. He also was well-known as an innovator of floodlight towers, generator load banks, large-capacity air compressors and water pumps.

Williams was instrumental in forming relationships with heavy equipment manufacturers so they would take the rental industry seriously. He wanted the industry to be credible even before he knew about ARA. 

Before and during the creation of the American Rental Association, Williams was already ahead of the game. He understood the need for an association, as well as the importance of relationships with other members and suppliers. Even after his death in 1999, Williams’s impact on the equipment rental industry carries on and is still visible today.