Travels with Fred and Other Topics

Fred Jaegle was part of RER for about 15 years, first as sales rep, then sales manager and for 10 years as publisher. He cared deeply about the rental industry and made many good friends, especially among manufacturers. He was always fascinated by companies' products and business strategies.

Fred also had a great affinity for rental people. He was responsible for RER's business and identified with the issues and problems rental companies faced. When we visited some rental centers together, he'd ask great questions about why they did things in certain ways, often inquiring from angles I'd not thought of.

We worked together for about 10 years and stayed in touch after he left the magazine. Fred never lost interest in the rental industry and still kept up with quite a few rental people, reps and manufacturing personnel. Some of you reading this now were among his personal and professional friends.

We traveled together often, attending trade shows, visiting manufacturers and rental companies. He liked a great meal, enjoyed lingering in conversation over a drink. He threw a good prank now and again. There was something about Fred that made you want to pull a prank on him, and there were a number of those over the years. He loved to laugh and his guffaw boomed across the room and down the hallway.

Fred and I talked about the rental industry for hundreds of hours. We talked of politics, sports, economics. We often disagreed about things — politics, issues that related to the rental industry, business strategy for the magazine. But these were healthy disagreements. It made the magazine better and it broadened both of us to understand more about people who didn't necessarily think the same way. We could disagree and still be friends.

There was another topic we spoke of often that we never disagreed about, and this we talked about as much as anything else. Family. I don't think there was a more important topic to Fred. There weren't many Monday mornings when he didn't stop by my office and ask about mine. If he sensed I had a problem, he'd sit down and listen. He didn't pretend to always have a solution, but he always listened. When I spoke proudly about my son, I saw a gleam in his eye just like the one in mine, and it would be there when he spoke of his children too.

In case you don't already know why I'm writing about him in the past tense, what I didn't know all those years, and neither did Fred, was that he had a congenital heart defect that would lead to a torn aorta. It was the cause of his sudden and unexpected death last month at the age of 46, leaving behind a wonderful wife and two teenage children, far too young to have to live without a father.

I'm writing this for the many people in the rental industry who knew Fred. And I'm writing it for myself. I've gone on to work with other fine colleagues, but Fred will always have a special place. And when a friend passes, you don't want to forget too quickly.

Some of Fred's former and current colleagues have set up a fund for the future education and health needs of his wife and kids. Please turn to the Jaegle obituary on page 19 for more information.

Our cover story this month is about generators, particularly generator rentals. It is a fast-growing industry segment, can be very lucrative if managed well, and, as one generator rental specialist recently told me after setting up generators in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it felt good to know delivering a generator might keep a hospital running, power a schoolhouse, or just keep homes and businesses operating.

It might be the fastest-growing segment of the rental business. A report by analysts Frost & Sullivan in 2004 predicted that by 2011, rental revenue from power generation would top $635 million annually. My sense is that it will well top that number, probably sooner than later. And OEM to distribution channel generator sales have grown around 20 percent per year, according to one manufacturer.

The nation's power grid is in serious need of updating and repair. Natural disasters are intensifying, affecting an increasingly overtaxed infrastructure and continuing population growth. I can't imagine operating a business in North America without immediate access to back-up power and the name of a generator rental specialist in my speed dial.

Check out Brandey Smith's cover story on the subject on page 26.

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