Rental Center: Know thy niche

Steve Archibald, Pinnacle Central, Jacksonville, Florida 

Success centers on being a unique source of industrial abrasive equipment and supplies.

In 2000, Steve Archibald had to make some interesting choices. With 25 years of experience in selling and renting industrial abrasive blasting equipment and supplies in the Jacksonville, Florida area, his employer passed away.

Pinnacle Central's yard just east of EverBank Field
Pinnacle Central's equipment lot lies just east of EverBank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Steve Archibald
“We have everything you need under one roof to support industrial and commercial corrosion protection and sandblasting projects. We sell new and used equipment, offer rental equipment and provide blasting media and sandblasting supplies,” says Steve Archibald, president of Pinnacle Central. 
Abrasive blasting equipment and supplies

Supplying abrasive material used in the blasting operations is one of Pinnacle’s core products. It can supply it bagged or in bulk.

Air dryers

Pinnacle Central is unique in that it is the only substantial supplier of abrasive blasting equipment in the southeastern United States. This is one of several air dryers in Pinnacle’s fleet that’s often used on U.S. Navy projects.


When promises made weren’t kept, he had little choice other than to go into business for himself.

Starting with a facility in Polk City, Florida, then expanding to Jacksonville a year later, Pinnacle Central has built a niche equipment sales and rental business as a turnkey provider of blasting equipment and supplies primarily in the southeastern United States. However, it also has customers throughout the country.

“We have everything you need under one roof to support industrial and commercial corrosion protection and sandblasting projects. We sell new and used equipment, offer rental equipment and provide blasting media and sandblasting supplies,” says Archibald, president of Pinnacle Central. In 2017, sales were in the $10 million range, with equipment rental making up 46 percent of the revenue. He values the fleet at about $12 million.

Today, its headquarters is in downtown Jacksonville, just east of EverBank Field, the home of the NFL Jaguars. It’s tucked in on a dead-end street under the Hart Bridge that spans St. John’s River.

While location plays an important role in the success of most construction and industrial equipment rental operations, Pinnacle Central’s customer base is predominantly contractors working on government-, heavy industrial- and military-related projects. The company is well-known for its front-to-back ability to provide the equipment and supplies for any size of abrasive blasting project and doesn’t need a highly visible location to succeed.

“Whether it’s a one-man operation or a large crew, we have the equipment to meet their needs. No one else in the southeastern United States has the inventory we have,” he says.

The rental fleet is made up of dehumidifiers, diesel- and electric-powered air compressors ranging from 185 to 1,600 cfm, dust collectors, blasting pots, 25 to 350 kW generators, safety equipment, light towers, fork lifts, aerial work platforms, industrial and pneumatic vacuums, ventilation fans, air and blast hoses and fittings, blast and recovery systems (BRS), desiccant and deliquescent dryers, air purifiers, hoods, filters, baking soda blasting systems, pressure washers and bulk hoppers.

“We also sell a variety of abrasives used in the blasting process. Ironically, none of it is silica. Our insurance company doesn’t allow that,” he says.

Know thy customer
Pinnacle Central’s clientele are very familiar with the firm’s expertise. “Our salespeople work hard with customers to understand their job and what kind of equipment they need to complete it. Most customers are very knowledgeable about what they need, while some look to us for advice on the best way to tackle the abrasive blasting job,” Archibald says.

“We work closely with our customers. After all, they are renting equipment that often costs six figures. For example, we will rent aerial lifts to our better customers, but we turned one down the other day because they wanted to take it inside a tank they were going to abrasive-blast. We’re not going to do that. It’s a good way to turn a $100,000 machine into scrap art. You’ve got to be selective. Even in our early days when we wanted every bit of business, we didn’t want the bad business. We were smart enough to back out and let equipment sit in the yard rather than take a chance,” he says.

Like other rental centers, Archibald struggles with the higher cost of equipment and the inability to increase rates to justify it. Tier 4 Final-compliant compressors and generators are two types of equipment that comes to Archibald’s mind.

Cost vs. rates
“Although we rent compressors of all sizes, smaller compressor sizes are very competitive. Although the federal government requires Tier 4 Final-compliant engines in new equipment, our customers, even the U.S. Navy, don’t want to pay for them. They all want lowest price and aren’t willing to pay the higher rental rate the higher cost justifies,” he says.

To counter the increased costs for Tier 4 Final-compliant equipment, Archibald looks to remanufactured equipment. For example, he’s added several Doosan remanufactured air
compressors that allows him to side-step the Tier 4 requirements – for now.

“We can buy them at about 80 percent of the cost of a new unit and they’re much easier to maintain. They’re mechanical engines with straightforward analog systems and we don’t have to deal with diesel exhaust fluid,” he says.

He struggles with renters practicing poor diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) habits that are needed with Tier 4 Final-compliant units. “Sandblasters and general contractors are a little remiss on cleanliness. If you don’t keep the DEF fluid clean, you can have extreme problems. If the DEF cap gets dirty, you can’t just go over there and open it up. You’ve got to clean it before you open it and the DEF has to be kept clean. It has to be kept in a secure place. It’s a whole deal. We’re not thrilled with this extra care needed, but we had
to learn it, and we have to educate our customers,” he says.

Loyal employees
Pinnacle Central employs 28 people; some have been with the company since its beginning. “We don’t have much in terms of employee turnover. I believe we treat our employees well. We make sure that their benefit package is very competitive. Even when things were tough in 2009, 2010 and 2011, we didn’t cut anything and we didn’t cut any employees. How we got through it, I’m not quite sure. But we did, and actually, every year we’ve been in business, we’ve made money. We built a good, loyal team in our employees,” he says.

Presently, the firm is looking for truck drivers who can transport a variety of rental equipment. Pinnacle operates four tractors and has a fleet of 10 trailers. “We prefer to deliver the equipment and don’t want to be restricted by the availability of trucking firms. We want to be able to deliver 24/7 if we need to. However, finding capable drivers who can pass a drug test is getting harder to do. Electronic log requirements have caused some drivers to change jobs,” he says.

In 2010, Archibald hired Lynn Rosekrans as vice president of operations, a move he believes opened up time for him to think more strategically.

“Before I hired Lynn, I was micromanaging everything. I was handling rental contracts, taking orders, picking up equipment. My mind was going 90 miles an hour and too often, I’d forget to take in equipment that went off rent but was still out in the field. Now that I have more staff helping with the details, it’s very rare that any details get dropped,” he says.

That extra time allows him to be more strategic in his equipment purchases and financing agreements. “In the past, we had issues with getting financing for highly specialized equipment such as dust collectors because lenders weren’t familiar with them, they were hesitant to finance them. Now, I can explain the equipment, show its residual value, project rental rates and utilization and it becomes a much easier discussion,” he says.

Although most of his rental equipment is highly specialized, he’s not afraid to take on more mainstream types of equipment. “Last year, we re-rented a small Genie 5519 forklift from a competitor because one of our customers needed one on a tight job. The contractor really liked it because it was easy to move around on tight shipyards. Since then, I have purchased four of them. Our salespeople thought I was crazy adding them to the fleet, but they are always out on rent. They are sized right for the jobs our customers do, they are not expensive and they bring in good revenue.”

Copyright 2018 Direct Business Media. All rights reserved.