Sunbelt Material Handling: Looking back at our 28 years
Warren Cornil and Bill Rowan, each owning 50% of the stock, organized Sunbelt Material Handling in 1987 and opened for business on September 1 as an authorized Komatsu Forklift dealership. They worked together for over 5 years at another Komatsu dealership and were convinced they could be successful on their own. With three other employees, they set out to succeed in a building of 8,000 square feet on East Walnut Street in Garland, Texas.
“Many partnerships are structured 51/49,” says Rowan, President of Sunbelt. “We appreciate each other and if we can’t agree on a course of action, we scrap it and try to find another solution.”
That teamwork has led Sunbelt to become one of the most respected brands in the forklift industry. Within five years, Sunbelt outgrew its original facility and with 25 employees relocated to a 24,000-square-foot building in the heart of Dallas in 1992.
“Back then, we thought we had plenty of room and figured we’d never outgrow that place,” Rowan says. But in late 1998, Warren and Bill purchased the present location at 1617 Terre Colony Court in Dallas and after extensive remodeling of the building, moved the company once again in early 1999. The 60,000 square foot facility sits on 3.5 acres just north of Interstate 30, between Hampton and Westmoreland Roads.
Sunbelt’s brand, from a modest beginning to the respected national institution it is today, has been based on steady, organic growth. Almost from inception, Sunbelt was annually recognized by Komatsu as one of the top five dealerships in forklift sales volume, as well as parts sales volume. It was ranked number one so frequently they became recognized as Komatsu’s flagship dealer. In 2004, Komatsu asked Sunbelt to open a branch in Houston. “They asked if we had any interest and we immediately seized the opportunity,” CEO Warren Cornil recalls. The Houston branch opened for business on September 1, 2004 in 10,000 square feet of leased space. In 2007, Sunbelt expanded in Houston purchasing a 30,000 square foot facility at 300 Bammel Westfield Road, just off I45 and FM 1960 on the north side of Houston.
COMMITMENT TO QUALITY
Sunbelt’s loyalty extends to their suppliers as well. They have been a Komatsu dealer since they opened in 1987 and to this day remain one of the largest Komatsu dealers in North America. Sunbelt is constantly searching for ways to supplement and grow their business that will also provide improved solutions for their customers. In 2001, Sunbelt added the Flexi, a very narrow aisle (VNA) forklift that offers clients the ability to increase their storage capacity in their existing facilities. In 2010, Sunbelt became the regional master distributor in Texas for Big Joe Equipment. Big Joe has been manufacturing Class 3, electric walkie pallet jacks and stackers for over 50 years. The most exciting news of 2012 was the addition of Nissan/UniCarriers to the Sunbelt product line for North Texas. With this addition, Sunbelt has product in all 5 material handling equipment classes.
“We have spent 28 years building our Sunbelt brand,” Rowan says. “We’ve worked to add suppliers who have an equally reliable brand. Adding a full range product line with the strong reputation of UniCarriers has attracted new clients, while continuing to satisfy the needs of our existing clients.” Sunbelt’s expertise continues to be in providing new and used forklifts, parts, service and rentals to support our clients’ requirements. In 2012, Sunbelt added the Doosan forklift line for the Houston area. Doosan is one of the world’s largest manufacturer’s of construction equipment and forklifts and is renowned for their high quality and strong product support, and thus an ideal addition to the Sunbelt product line.
In the beginning, Sunbelt started with Warren, Bill and three other employees. Two of the initial three employees, CSS Manager Jeff Harris and Vice President of Sales Bob Elzbieciok, remain employed at Sunbelt and the work force has grown to a total of 93 people. This growth and loyalty speak volumes to the company culture that has been instilled over the years by owners Warren Cornil and Bill Rowan. “We believe strongly in the Sunbelt team and in the teamwork concept. There’s no such thing as an unimportant job here,” Rowan says. “If Warren and I have done one thing right, it’s been to hire smart people and let them do what they do best.”
“Our company is like a family,” says Bob Elzbieciok. “We work as a team and treat each other with respect. The strong support that we give each other enables us to provide the quality service our customers deserve.” Jeff Harris adds, “Warren and Bill want to do what’s right for the customer. That is why I stay at Sunbelt.” Throughout the company’s growth, Sunbelt Material Handling has remained committed to the principles established early on by its leadership. “We instill an absolute positive mental attitude in our approach to everything we do,” Cornil says. For example, at Sunbelt we don’t use the word “problem.” Instead, the company faces “challenges” and “opportunities.” George Munford adds, “For the Sunbelt team, customer service is more than a catchphrase. As employee/owners, we all understand the importance of providing high-quality service to each and every customer who entrusts Sunbelt to keep their equipment operating at the highest level possible.” “We’re going to continue to hire good people, pay them well, and let them perform,” Cornil says. Count on Sunbelt-past, present, and future.