When Jim Waitzman joined Tractor & Equipment Company in 1945, the small struggling company had fewer than 10 employees and was operating out of a little shop on First Avenue North in Birmingham.
When he retired – over 40 years later – Tractor & Equipment was a strong statewide organization with over 300 employees and with branch operations strategically covering Alabama and Northwest Florida.
After serving in the Navy as a pilot and flight instructor during WWII, Waitzman returned to Birmingham. The Chamber of Commerce was assisting vets in their job searches.
Remembering some words from one of his Auburn Economic professors, Waitzman joined Tractor & Equipment Company with the thought that there would be great post-war government supported construction projects. He hoped that construction equipment was something he could learn.
He started in the Parts Department sweeping floors. As opportunities became available in the small company, he went into the Sales Department. In those days, he would leave home on Sunday night so he could be in his West Alabama territory call on road contractors, coal miners, rock quarries, and County Road Commissioners.
During the Fifties and Sixties he moved into Sales management, as the company built branch operations in Decatur, Tuscaloosa, and Anniston. The company was owned by its senior management group, and Waitzman slowly began to buy stock in Tractor & Equipment Company.
The farm-to-market roads and Interstate Highway program were in full swing, and the Alabama highway contractors were growing and adding equipment. Waitzman became very active in the Alabama Road Builders Association and the Plant Mix Association. At many convention functions, he put on costume and make-up to entertain his friends in skits portraying the hard-luck contractor, I. Bidlow.
In the Sixties, Waitzman became very active in the American Road Builders Association, attending most annual meetings. He also took a leadership role with AED – Associated Equipment Distributors. He was named President of AED in 1968. He served on an important federal government committee, which established the first safety features (ROPS) on construction equipment.
In 1969/70 Waitzman purchased more stock in the company and for the first time held a majority interest in Tractor & Equipment. He led the company through two significant events at this time as well. The new headquarters facility was built near the Birmingham Airport, and he expanded the company’s territory to include South Alabama and Northwest Florida. Branches in Montgomery, Mobile and Panama City, Florida were immediately established.
During these first 25 years as an equipment distributor, he learned all facets of his emerging equipment industry. He also learned about his customers’ business. He took a serious interest in some of the large rock jobs during the Interstate days. He was an expert with crushing equipment, asphalt plants, and paving equipment. He really understood his equipment and could explain its capabilities to his customers, so they could use it to their greatest benefit.
He took an immense interest in the service and repair aspect of the machinery business, and led Tractor & Equipment Company to earn a very good reputation for parts and service. He established the Renew Center, which is still a signature feature of today’s Tractor & Equipment.
He also understood the financial side of the equipment business as well as the special financial needs of the contractor. Under his leadership, Tractor & Equipment Company consistently worked with emerging contractors, enabling them to grow their business, build their bonding capabilities, and work through tough jobs and weather conditions.
During the Seventies and Eighties, Waitzman served as President and then Chairman of Tractor & Equipment Company, and was majority owner.
The company was recognized as the #1 International Harvester construction equipment dealers in the world. He took a very active role in assisting International Harvester transfer its Construction Equipment Division to Dresser Industries. In 1984 – four years prior to his retirement – Waitzman helped Tractor & Equipment Company align itself with Komatsu. Then at the time of his retirement, he saw the union of Komatsu and Dresser as they formed the Komatsu Dresser Company.
In 1989 he fully retired, sold his stock in Tractor & Equipment Company and turned management of the company over to Billy Jack Roberts and Jim Waitzman, Jr.
Waitzman was a significant factor in the heavy equipment business – on a statewide basis and nationally. He played an important part in Alabama’s road building industry for over 40 years.
The company he nurtured remains an important member of the industry, recently celebrating its 60th anniversary by acquiring the Komatsu franchise in Georgia.