Percy Cowin left his employment with the Woodward Iron Company to form in 1924 a small engineering and underground construction company, Salmon & Cowin, Inc. It was then, and remains today, an engineering and underground construction company primarily involved in projects such as mineshafts and slopes, tunneling, etc. The Salmon family interest was eventually purchased by Percy Cowin and this company became known as Cowin & Company, Inc. which still exists today and remains headquartered in Birmingham, AL.
Sometime in the middle 1930’s Cowin & Company, Inc. became involved to a small degree in the rental and sale of Ingersoll-Rand Air Compressors in addition to performing some local contract blasting services. The two companies entered into a formal distribution agreement in 1938. This represents the inception of Cowin Equipment Co Inc.
In July 1940 the machinery sales/rental part of the business, while still very small, was separated into a new company named Mine and Contractors Supply Company, Inc. Upon graduation from college in 1953 Percy’s second son, Peter Cowin, took over the small operation that was Mine and Contractors Supply. After earning his engineering degree and military service in Korea, Percy’s first son, John Cowin, had already entered Cowin & Company, Inc.
Years of Growth
In 1955, Mine and Contractors Supply became known as Cowin Equipment Company, Inc. The years from 1953 through 1964 were years of greatly improving volumes, profits and capitalization. In 1964 a new company, Cowin Euclid Company (which later became Cowin Road Machinery), was formed to represent the then Euclid division of General Motors. It was felt that this company could aggressively focus on the heavier, earth-moving equipment while not distracting the success Cowin Equipment Company was enjoying with a more general line of construction equipment. Cowin Road Machinery had a separate location in Birmingham but shared facilities with Cowin Equipment Co. at the newly opened branches in Mobile and Montgomery.
The 1960’s and 1970’s were periods of stable growth for both companies. Cowin became the distributor for Grove Cranes in 1971. During a recession in 1980 Cowin Road Machinery was merged into Cowin Equipment Company leaving the latter as one solid company representing all products. In Birmingham the equipment company operated out of the new Tarrant City facility where it still is today.
The 1980’s and 1990’s were decades of further growth amid an ever-changing industry. Cowin opened two more facilities in Huntsville/ Decatur and Pensacola, Florida in 1987. In 1996 Peter’s second son, James P Cowin, was promoted to President. Cowin continued to represent all of the Construction and Mining divisions of Ingersoll-Rand, the three divisions of Grove Worldwide, and other Product Lines including Kobelco, Kawasaki, Terex, Liebherr, Gomaco, Etnyre, Broce, and Takeuchi. In the central and northern region of Alabama, Cowin became the dealer for Case Corporation in 2001. In 2002 Cowin opened its first offices in Georgia with facilities in both Atlanta and Albany. In Georgia, Cowin is the authorized distributor for Kobelco, Kawasaki, Doosan, Kobelco Cranes, Terex, Bomag, Broce, Doosan Portable Power, Indeco, and others.
In 2011 Cowin purchased the Alabama territory operations for Volvo Construction Equipment from the prior dealer, ASC Construction Equipment. Cowin had already been a Volvo Road Products dealer since the purchase of the Ingersoll Rand divisions by Volvo in 2007. With the ASC purchase Cowin assumed responsibility for the complete line of Volvo products within the Alabama territory, which includes northwest Florida and coastal Mississippi. And in hiring most of ASC’s Alabama personnel Cowin was proud to pick up a wealth of experienced and talented coworkers. Volvo is the world’s 3rd largest manufacturer of construction equipment, and is the undisputed world leader for articulated trucks. The Volvo Group is a multi-billion dollar global conglomerate which (in addition to Volvo Construction Equipment) includes Volvo Trucks, Mack trucks, Volvo Buses, Volvo Penta, Volvo Aero, and Volvo Financial Services. The addition of Volvo is one of the very most significant milestones in Cowin’s long history.
At all locations, Cowin continues to promote its “hybrid” strategy of equal emphasis on sales and rental, combined with a total commitment to product support. We feel that this “hybrid” strategy is the ultimate in customer responsiveness! Whether a customer wants to rent, buy, or rent with an option to purchase, Cowin is utterly flexible and receptive to those needs.
Cowin has often been honored for top market share performance by the vast majority of our contracted brands. In only the short period of time since the acquisition of Volvo in 2011 Cowin’s focus on our customer’s, and aggressive promotion of the Volvo brand has been heralded through numerous Volvo awards. We have twice been awarded Volvo’s “Top Market Share” dealer in North America (2014 and 2016) and were runner-up for the same award in 2015. Perhaps even more importantly, Cowin has also been named Volvo’s “Top Overall Product Support Dealer”.
Today, Cowin Equipment Company is a very well capitalized and successful distributor of construction equipment throughout our territory. We have extensive parts and service capabilities, a uniquely long-tenured and dedicated workforce, and a large and diverse rental fleet. Moreover, we truly cherish and value the long and steady relationships we have with so many of our customers. We aspire to be partners for the long haul.
As we continue to build our legacy in the machinery distribution business in our 9th decade, we look forward to the future as much as we pride ourselves on the past.