Lars “Bernie” Ostervold has been selling pump parts and engineering advice to aggregate companies in the Southeast for more than 20 years.
Headquartered in Columbus Georgia his company Pearce Pump South Inc. handles “all equipment from the front of the dredge to when the aggregate comes off the conveyor belt (after processing).” This includes parts for pumps conveyors and processing plants and rubber products such as hoses and sleeves.
The companies he represents are a mix of nationally known names and small local companies including Pearce Pump Supply GreyStone processing plants Berkeley water pumps Price Rubber Company Titan/Kern and Salem-Republic Rubber products Buffalo Wire and Miller Wire Works for screen cloth SEPCO pump packing and gaskets Aggregate Equipment Sales for after market processor parts and Southern Wire Enterprises and DBT America for conveyor products. He uses Southern Machine & Welding a machine shop fabricator in Columbus and handles DynaSonics ultrasonic flowmeters.
He calls on customers in Alabama Georgia North and South Carolina and the panhandle of Florida and 70 to 80 percent of his customers are dredge operators.
Ostervold will visit a customer every two to eight weeks depending on where the plant is located.
“In North Carolina parts usage is not as great as in Alabama where there is more rock so I’ll visit companies in Alabama every two weeks and the ones in North Carolina every six to eight weeks” he said.
Traveling in a ¾-ton pickup truck Ostervold carries a flowmeter and other devices such as tachometers to trouble shoot problems.
“A lot of times when I’m at a plant the customer will ask about a problem – flow pressure or electric motors – and I go down and analyze it for them” he said. He calls this basic engineering.
“Often people call just for advice rather than to buy something and that is part of what we do” he said. “We’re consultants helping customers maintain an efficiently-operating plant.”
When he says “we” he means himself Wallace Garrod who handles inside sales at the Columbus office his wife Judy who handles secretarial and data management in the office and his daughter Laryn Moore the company “computer guru” who tracks inventory from her home office in Broken Arrow Oklahoma. Moore’s degree is in Management Information Systems and she also has several other part time clients she handles as a stay-at-home mother.
The company has outside storage on eight acres near Crawford Alabama and in several warehouses in Columbus. Inventory includes parts for four- to 12-inch dredge pumps including impellers shells wear liners pump packing and chain clamps. Ostervold keeps crusher parts dredge sleeves suction hose and parts for sand screws and log washers.
“We keep a large inventory for such a small company and it turns over fast” he said.
Ostervold began his career with five years as an engineman in the Coast Guard repairing pumps and diesel engines. At age 23 he entered Auburn University and received a degree in mechanical engineering in 1972. There followed a series of jobs in the oilfield until he joined Pekor Iron Works in 1982 rising to vice president of sales by 1990 when he left to start Pearce Pump South Inc.
“The sand and gravel industry is unique” he said. “We take our hits but also have windfalls. This year because of all the major equipment the producers bought our sales are above last year’s sales. Besides that it is a fairly consistent business.”
“The industry has grown and there are a lot of changes” he said. “There are not as many mom and pop operations; they have been bought out by the large producers.”
He regularly calls on about 70 dredging companies and has about 110 on his books.
“There was a little less dredging this year” he said “but it varies and next year it might be better.”