It's not just any vehicle

Former Grove engineers' invention has many uses

Former Grove engineers' invention has many uses

April 27, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

At first glance it looks like the mother of all golf carts, but a closer look reveals what it really is - a BUV, or Bold Utility Vehicle.

Not only is it a new invention, in it lies the hope for new careers for four ex-Grove Worldwide engineers who lost their jobs during the giant crane maker's cutbacks in recent years.

Grove Worldwide of Shady Grove, Pa., was once Franklin County's largest employer, with 2,500 workers. Employment began dropping in 1997 when Grove was sold to a Texas investment firm. By the end of 2002, employment at the plant had leveled off at around 1,000 workers.


Three of the laid-off Grove engineers formed their own company - Blazing Technologies Inc. - which they operate out of a shop-office building in Rouzerville. The fourth engineer became their consultant.

Bob Backer, 56, of Rouzerville ended a 20-year career at Grove as vice president of product development. He did most of the design work on the utility vehicle and is vice president of sales and marketing for Blazing Technologies.

Backer built the first two Bold Utility Vehicles, including a prototype and the pre-production model on display in the Rouzerville shop.

Gregg Wagner, 55, of Chambersburg, Pa., who lost his job as manager of sustaining engineering at Grove after nearly 20 years, is director of product support for Blazing Technologies.

Don Blaisdell, 38, who lives near Philadelphia, worked for Grove for 15 years. He is president of the new company.

Dennis W. Eckstine, 54, of Waynesboro, Pa., worked for Grove for 27 years in its engineering and product safety division. He started Eckstine & Associates Inc., a Waynesboro-based consulting firm, and works with Backer, Wagner and Blaisdell on development and production of the utility vehicle.

According to a brochure describing the BUV, it is "an electric multi-functional vehicle that can be utilized as both a tool and for recreation."

Its many attachments make it adaptable to many uses. It can be equipped with a flatbed, dump body, post hole digger, power washer, paint sprayer, conveyor, welder, stump cutter, wood splitter, passenger carrier or 15-foot lift.

One attachment - a manure spreader - is aimed at horse owners, the group the inventors hope will provide its first successful market.

"You can drive it right into the barn, shovel manure into it and take it right out to the field and spread it," Backer said. "Anyone who has four or five horses usually has four to five acres. They can spread their manure right on their fields without having to pile it up.

"This is a market that no one has tapped yet," he said.

The partners have taken the utility vehicle to horse shows, horse auctions and racetracks to demonstrate its capabilities, Backer said. They will be sold through direct sales the first year, then through a dealership network, he said.

The Bold Utility Vehicle was designed to be environmentally friendly with its two electric motors and the vegetable oil that courses through its hydraulic system.

It is also easy to drive for handicapped persons because it is steered and operated with a joy stick.

The vehicle has front-wheel-drive, creates no engine noise or pollution and weighs 1,050 pounds, according to the brochure. It sells for $9,000 through a monthly lease-to-buy program.

The vehicles will be made in a rented factory building that is being renovated near Philadelphia , Eckstine said.

"We have five employees now," he said. "We hope to have between 30 and 50 employees in the next two years."

The four engineers kept in touch after losing Grove jobs, Wagner said.

"We all liked Grove and would probably still be there, but after being out and learning what we can do as individuals and as a team, it would be tough for me to go back now," he said.

"It would depend what they offered," Eckstine said. "There is life after Grove."

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