ARA Hall of Fame & EDCO

When you enter our doors at Equipment Development Company- EDCO in Frederick, Maryland, awards and displays pay homage to our accomplishments and rich history. One award, however, stands out among the rest.

A display case encapsulates this uniquely shaped trophy just inside our front door that commemorates Leo Swan, one of EDCO’s co-founders, and his induction into the American Rental Association (ARA) Hall of Fame.

Much like the dual-disc grinder that he and his partner, Ed Harding, created in 1959, Swan’s rental hall of fame pedigree wasn’t built overnight.

Swan’s journey to his induction night actually began in Washington D.C., at a National Cash Register. There, the U.S. Naval Veteran of WWII eventually met John Doran Sr. and accepted a job with Doran at Rental Tools and Equipment Co. in Silver Spring, Maryland.

As a member of a three-man operation, Swan and his colleagues were tasked with introducing the concept of tool rentals to the east coast. Although renting tools was an established practice on the west coast, the east coast had yet to be fully exposed to the idea. Swan’s job was to connect the business with job sites, industrial plants, government agencies and other potential prospects.

During these sales calls, Swan noticed a recurring need in the construction market: a tool for resurfacing concrete, especially for large areas.

The only machine available on the market was a 15-inch floor polisher equipped with an attachment to hold abrasive grinding stones. The design of this machine was inadequate for the job, as it could not withstand the rigors of grinding concrete and was difficult to control with its single-head action.

The decision was made to develop a machine that would meet the customer’s needs. After many hours of brainstorming, a design was created and Harding undertook the construction of the dual-disc grinder.

Upon entering the Rental Tools and Equipment Co. rental fleet, the dual-disc grinder was an immediate success. With the desire to sell their machine to other rental centers, Swan traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, to exhibit and demonstrate their new grinder at the third-ever ARA Convention.

After selling 18 dual-disc grinders at that convention, the team at the Silver Spring rental store had to find a way to fill those orders. Using an acetylene torch and welder, an angle grinder and a large hammer and anvil, Doran, Harding and Swan managed to build and deliver those units in six months.

The advent of the dual-disc grinder to the construction market was met with success and prosperity. Still, other rental needs were prevalent. Other machines developed in the early years of EDCO included a concrete planer, designed to penetrate the concrete surface faster, deeper and with greater force, and the concrete saw, which was purposed to cut concrete with a horsepower of less than 18 – which was the only option available at the time.

In 1961, Swan decided to buy the manufacturing division (EDCO) from Rental Tools and Equipment Co. and join forces with Harding to set the plans for future growth. The decision took “a small amount of borrowed cash, a long term bank loan and a hell of a lot of nerve,” Swan wrote about 30 years ago.

In 1970, Swan received his first award from ARA, the Special Service Award. This award honors a rental industry supplier who made an outstanding contribution to the industry and ARA.

47 years removed from that fateful exhibit and demonstration of the dual-disc grinder at the ARA Convention, Swan found himself at the 50th ARA Show, accepting his place in the ARA Hall of Fame.

“I had no idea that I would be considered since I’m from the wrong side of the tracks – I’m a vendor,” Swan told Rental Management Magazine in 2006.

Under the direction of Swan, Harding and their families, EDCO has shown an unwavering commitment to the rental market. Through the years, our family-owned manufacturing company has never compromised quality, as every machine is built in our American-based facility and ensured to be Rental-Tough.

By: Eric Myers

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