Brad Jacobs, who spearheaded the dramatic consolidation of the rental industry in the late 1990s as founder of United Rentals, heads the latest American Rental Association’s Hall of Fame inductees. Jacobs will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Atlanta in March along with rental industry pioneer Mitch Hoxie of Aero Rentals, Tucson, Ariz.; and Harold Plugge Jr., founder of the Taylor Rental franchise.
As chairman and CEO of United Waste Systems, Jacobs had been a seminal figure in the consolidation in the waste industry. After selling his interests in United Waste, Jacobs began looking at other industries with growth potential and came upon equipment rental. After extensive research, Jacobs founded United Rentals with several former United Waste colleagues in 1997.
United Rentals held its initial public offering in early 1998 and became the industry’s leading player after it acquired U.S. Rentals in the spring of 1998. United Rentals would acquire more than 250 rental companies and quickly grow to become a $3 billion corporation. Based in Greenwich, Conn., United Rentals remains the worldwide rental industry’s largest company with more than 700 branches in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Jacobs’ familiarity with Wall Street markets facilitated his ability to attract tens of billions of dollars in capital to the rental industry. He was responsible for the strategic direction of the company and oversaw planning and analysis, sales and marketing, business development, national accounts, human resources, risk management, information technology and corporate communications.
In its early years, United Rentals was seen as a consolidator until it reached critical mass. Now United’s emphasis is primarily on operations and has some of the most sophisticated software and operation systems in the rental industry.
Jacobs stepped down as United Rentals chairman in August 2007.
Mitch Hoxie moved with his family to Tucson, Ariz., in 1946 and founded the city’s first rental company in 1947. Hoxie, like many of the industry’s pioneers stumbled on the rental concept by accident. As a contractor, Hoxie had a large supply of equipment and tools and came up with the idea as neighbors continually asked to borrow his tools and machines. As demand grew, Hoxie purchased an old gas station to house the business, which he named Arizona Rental Co., later shortening the name to Aero Rental. Hoxie opened four more branches, becoming one of the first rental center owners with multiple branches.
Hoxie was also one of the first members of ARA, then called the American Associated Rental Operators. He was elected to the ARA board in 1959 and served as executive vice president for 1961-1962. He later served on a number of ARA committees, was honored as ARA Rental Man of the Year in 1964 and received ARA’s Distinguished Service Award in 1968.
Hoxie also organized the Tucson Equipment Rental Association. He retired from Aero Rentals in 1980 and died in 1984.
Hal Plugge Jr. began working in the purchasing department of his father’s hardware wholesale company, Dealer Supply, in 1958. During the next year, Plugge anticipated the trend toward renting and developed the idea of a tool rental program for hardware and lumber dealers. He was elected vice president and director of Dealers Supply in 1959.
The company introduced its tool rental program in 1962 after four years of research. The following year the Taylor Rental Program was offered on a franchise basis, named for Plugge’s middle name. The first Taylor Rental Center opened in Rutland, Vt., in June 1963.
Plugge was named chairman of the board in 1971, and the company’s name was changed to Taylor Rental Corp. in 1972, becoming a publicly traded corporation in September of that year. The company peaked in size in 1980 with 620 stores in 49 states.
Plugge’s understanding of the rental industry enabled hundreds of small business owners to become successful entrepreneurs by operating under a brand-name identity that contributed to an improved image for the rental industry.
Plugge retired for health reasons in the late 1970s and died in 1993.
Jacobs, Hoxie and Plugge will be inducted at the next Rental Show in Atlanta March 3 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.