P&Q Profile: Brandeis Machinery & Supply Co.’s Lee Heffley

By |  August 16, 2017

Lee Heffley manages quarry, construction and coal equipment sales at four of Brandeis Machinery’s eight branches. Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Brandeis, vice president and regional sales manager at the company, is a fourth-generation, family-owned Komatsu and Wirtgen distributor that was founded in 1908.

How did you first make your way into the aggregate industry?

Heffley: I started in the aggregate processing business in 2001, and just completely immersed myself in it. That company was acquired by Bramco (Brandeis Machinery’s parent company) in 2010, and we rebranded it as Bramco-MPS, where I managed sales until early last year. In April 2016 I moved over to our Brandeis Machinery division.

What have you enjoyed most about your career?

Heffley

Heffley: You’ve got to love the people in this industry. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a machine operator or president (and sometimes they’re the same guy), the aggregate industry is just loaded with – I hate to use a pun, but if it fits – good, down-to-earth people.

What are some of the greatest challenges you see the aggregate industry facing at the moment?

Heffley: Legislation and employment. Those are two of the most critical issues on our customers’ minds. With legislation, it’s one of two things: either the overreaching regulation we’ve been dealing with for the past several years, with regards to dust, water and safety; or, the anticipation of some much-needed infrastructure spending, and sufficient funding resources to support it. We’re very hopeful of the opportunities that lie ahead of us.

The other challenge is employment. It weighs heavily on our customers’ minds how they can attract enough high-quality labor necessary to meet the demand for material that we see on the horizon. This really ties back to the people leading this industry, and the legislative agenda I mentioned.

First and foremost, our customers have their employees’ best interests at heart – I believe that. Second, they’re competing with all sorts of other businesses for good employees. That’s the key driver for a safe and comfortable work environment – not excessive laws on the books.

What sorts of sentiments and concerns do you hear from customers about how dust is and will be legislated in the coming years?

Heffley: It’s certainly something on their minds. The OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) silica ruling, for example, seems excessive toward the aggregate industry in comparison with other industries. The problem you run into with something like this is that being against it in the political arena can present challenges, when the opposition chooses to paint you as though your intentions aren’t good.

These are good people in this industry. I don’t know anyone who is willing to allow harm to come to any of their employees for the sake of production.

I’m a believer that the free market will take care of itself, and when we talk about finding good, quality employees – you’re not going to attract them without providing a safe and somewhat comfortable work environment. The situation takes care of itself.

What’s the feeling at the moment regarding highway funding nationally and in the states you cover?

Heffley: Well, Indiana just passed something that is going to really be beneficial to them, and I feel like we’re on a path to that in Kentucky. Kentucky is in a situation similar to where we are at at the federal level. We have a relatively new administration, and there is a lot of conversation at both levels of government right now. There’s a tremendous opportunity to implement change. It’s tied to the overall budgets, tax reform and job creation.

We’re cautiously optimistic. You saw before on a national basis there was a commitment on the spending side but not a sound plan on the funding side. We’re hopeful we can get something done because the right pieces are in place here at our state level, in both the legislature and at the governor’s office. We’ve got the right people and right mindset.

We’re still in an economy that continues to grow but maybe not at as fast a pace as we would like to see. We recognize that these things take time. We’re really hopeful we’re going to see progress this year and, more importantly, a plan in place for years to come.

This industry needs long-term assurance. It’s really hard no matter what industry you’re in as a business owner or manager to make significant investment in your business if you’re only managing year-to-year.

Heffley: You deal with both aggregate producers and recyclers. Tell us about the dynamic between the two in your states. Is that dynamic evolving?

One thing for us in Kentucky and Indiana is there is quite a bit of vertical integration here. Many of your quarry owners are also your asphalt producers and your paving companies. The same guy that may buy a Komatsu wheel loader for the quarry may also be buying a Wirtgen milling machine from us and a Kleemann crusher from us for processing RAP (reclaimed asphalt pavement).

Even though they own a quarry, they see the advantage of the liquid AC in the RAP. They’re saving money. The thing with that is they’re not depleting their reserves on the limestone side.

Currently we’re not seeing as much integration with concrete in Kentucky. In Indiana, it is an INDOT-approved material. Recycled concrete that comes from an interstate project can go back into another state-certified project. Maybe it’s just a matter of time before that comes to Kentucky and Tennessee.

An argument can certainly be made for the advantages of virgin aggregate in concrete and asphalt mix design as well. Our job is simply to provide equipment solutions for our customers based on what’s called for on their project.


Five things

First industry job – Sales rep for a Komatsu forklift dealer in Louisville, Kentucky.
Vacation spot – Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, with my family.
Hobbies – Following my daughters’ sports teams, books and podcasts, and shooting sporting clays.
Sports teams – University of Kentucky Wildcats – for me, everything else pales in comparison.
Books – Too many to list, but at the top of the list is “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. Most recent: “Team of Teams” by Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

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