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Walker Machinery now sells underground mining equipment

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Walker Machinery and its Kentucky cousin, Whayne Supply, are now selling and servicing Caterpillar-brand underground coal mining equipment.

Monty Boyd, who owns both Caterpillar dealerships, made the announcement Thursday at Walker's Belle headquarters.

"This is truly an historic event in the life of Walker Machinery and Whayne Supply, that we have become representatives for these Caterpillar products in the territory we serve," Boyd said.

Boyd bought Walker in March 2010 from the Walker family. Walker Machinery has about 700 employees. The company has sold Caterpillar heavy equipment in western West Virginia and southeastern Ohio for 59 years.

Whayne has about 1,400 employees. The company has been in business for 99 years. It is headquartered in Louisville, Ky. Boyd, a former Caterpillar employee, worked his way up at Whayne and eventually bought the company. Whayne is the Caterpillar dealer in 120 counties in Kentucky and 16 counties across southern Indiana.

Boyd announced Thursday that his companies have formed a new division, Whayne-Walker Underground Mining, to sell and service Caterpillar underground mining equipment. He said the new division started doing business Thursday with 38 employees. Some are former employees of Caterpillar who had worked for Bucyrus.

Boyd said he wants to hire 5 to 10 more people for the new division, including some people with technical skills, some support people and some product specialists. Interested individuals are encouraged to visit the employment section of Walker's website, www.walker-cat.com

Announcement of the new division is a direct result of Caterpillar's July 2011 purchase of Bucyrus International for $9 billion. Bucyrus, a major manufacturer of underground mining equipment, had purchased several underground mining equipment companies, including DBT Mining Machinery, Terex Mining, Marion, and Work Tools, prior to its decision to sell out to Caterpillar.

Boyd said Thursday's announcement took some time coming because Caterpillar had to decide whether to operate the underground equipment business as a separate entity or integrate it into the Caterpillar brand. Another decision was whether the equipment would be sold directly by the manufacturer, as Bucyrus had done, or through Caterpillar's established dealer network.

Once decisions were made to fold the equipment into the Caterpillar brand and sell it through Caterpillar's established dealer network, the focus shifted to making sure the dealers could provide the level of service customers expect, Boyd said.

Coal represents 65 to 70 percent of the revenue at both Walker and Whayne, Boyd said. Although coal production in the eastern United States is divided almost evenly between surface and underground mining, Caterpillar's traditional product line included equipment mainly used in surface mining.

Caterpillar now offers "the largest, broadest product line of any manufacturer throughout the entire world," Boyd said. "We've invested $9 billion in this business. We're committed to the mining industry. We're all in."

Boyd said he serves on Caterpillar's Global Mining Council, which consists of dealer-owners from throughout the world who help Caterpillar develop its mining business strategy.

Although coal has been under pressure from environmentalists and federal government agencies and has been hurt by relatively cheap natural gas, Boyd said the long-term outlook is good.

"Our markets are going to be stable and we're going to be mining coal for a long time into the future," he said. Boyd noted that his companies actually serve two mining markets - Central Appalachia and the Illinois Basin.

"Why invest in coal? It provides us a tremendous opportunity to serve that very stable industry we see going forward," he said. "We feel very confident that the U.S. economy will get back on track and we'll see an increase in electricity demand. As soon as we do, we'll see an increased demand for coal."

Boyd said all of the other fuels can't fill the need for energy. "Coal has to be part of our energy policy," he said.

"From a world standpoint, the world is growing and the world has clearly said their choice for energy generation is coal. All of the developing countries look at coal as their base for growth. Anything we do requires energy and the world thirst and need for energy grows" as population increases. "We see a very positive outlook for this area because we have a very abundant resource, and that is coal."

Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, said, "This is a great day for West Virginia, when Caterpillar -- a worldwide technology leader -- steps forward and has confidence in the coal industry."

The Whayne-Walker announcement was made in Belle, behind Walker's headquarters. The company had two huge tents set up. A giant continuous miner was set up inside and large Caterpillar bulldozers and trucks were stationed outside. The entrance was built like the opening of a drift mine.

More than 100 customers, potential customers, dignitaries and employees attended the event.

Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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