March 2019 Vol. 74 No. 3

Editor's Log

Welcome to Our New Home (Page)

Robert Carpenter - Editor-in-Chief

Sometimes updating your home is a good thing. And sometimes completely scrapping the old home for a new one is a great thing. Underground Construction has long been the industry leader and is now proud to announce the arrival of a new, custom-built website designed to meet the evolving needs of the underground construction and rehabilitation industries.

As of March 1, Underground Construction is reasserting its place as the premier online resource for the underground utilities industry with a greatly enhanced website at UConOnline.com. Our team has spent countless hours refining, redefining, reconceptualizing and finally redesigning the website to meet the needs of on-the-go industry professionals.

Our new website, while broad-based in scope and organization of content, is much easier to navigate, allowing you to quickly find and consume the information you’re interested in. It’s superior to any other website you’ll find covering underground infrastructure.

But a well-organized and attractive website is just part of the equation. Without stellar content, any website falls short of its goals. Fully recognizing that challenge, we’re taking dramatic steps to make UConOnline.com the top instant news source.

The monthly Underground Construction magazine remains industry’s best source for in-depth news and features, award-winning editorials and more. But UCOnonline.com represents a return to a virtual daily newspaper.

Content will not only be driven by our existing staff, but we’ve added a new associate/digital editor to the team in Jason Cockerham. He is a technology expert, as well as a veteran of producing and generating quality content. He will lead a daily effort to scan multiple sources for information about all markets important to our readers. Our staff will provide exclusive content to further populate our website with high-priority and quality news you won’t find anyplace else in the market.

Take a look; add UConOnline.com to your favorites. Read it over coffee, lunch, at home on the couch or just during a pause in the daily action at your office. You’ll be amazed at the quantity and quality of information you can glean in just a few minutes, or data you can research in detail.

However you use UConOnline.com, it will soon become an essential part of your daily routine.

Toro Buys Instant Leadership

Another family-owned company has gone the acquisition route to become part of a mega-corporation.

Probably the biggest industry news in some time occurred mid-February when Toro announced its acquisition of the Charles Machine Works, better known for its suite of underground infrastructure companies led by Ditch Witch, Hammerhead, American Augers/Trencor, Subsite, Radius and others.

While the deal was negotiated for several months under tight lips, most at CMW had no idea a sale was approaching. With the passing of CMW founder Ed Malzahn in 2017, several companies had started making inquiries about purchasing the organization. Over the past year, Toro emerged as the most practical suitor.

For a mere $700 million, Toro finally achieved what it had been after for several years: a leading place at the table of underground infrastructure construction—directional drilling and trenching, in particular.

When Toro entered the market by acquiring the old Astec Underground HDD rigs and trenchers, it hoped its landscape dealers would take on HDD and trenchers. A few did, but not enough to make a significant market impact. The equipment was too different and too expensive for most of its traditional landscape-focused dealers.

Toro, to its credit, continued to invest in its fledgling rigs/trenchers line-up. By all accounts, the machines are solid and productive. But the narrow range of equipment left holes in its market coverage and it never achieved the “aha!” moment that would convince contractors to give up their Vermeer or Ditch Witch for a Toro rig which, albeit a good machine, was not really a better machine.

Finally, Toro opted to buy what it wanted since entering the market— that equipment line-up, diversification and market share they’ve always craved. But they also bought a lot more, such as large HDD equipment and track trenchers, locators/electronic equipment, specialty tooling, a used/resell equipment network and especially, totally different construction equipment, such as piercing tools and ramming equipment.

Perhaps most significantly, Toro is now in the rehabilitation business with the HammerHead product line-up, including pipe bursting, lateral and mainline CIPP lining and recently adding UV-light cure to the suite of products. Further, Subsite now owns sewer inspection cameras and lateral reinstatement robotic equipment through its acquisition of RS Technical.

Now, many decisions are facing Toro and a lot of anxiety exists at the CMW companies. CMW is used to being a family company, with a certain amount of flexibility and familiarity concerning management. While Toro is a well-respected and strong company, it is also a publicly traded company answering to stockholders and a non-family board of directors. The profit motive may differ from what the people at CMW are accustomed to.

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