A longtime Revere equipment rental industry leader will become one of the newest inductees into the Rental Hall of Fame. The late Melvin Williams will be formally inducted during a ceremony at The Rental Show in New Orleans on Feb. 19.
The American Rental Association (ARA) created the Rental Hall of Fame in 2000 to foster an appreciation of the historical development of the rental industry and the leaders who helped the industry grow and expand. Each year, nominations are accepted to recognize individuals who have made a substantial impact on the industry at the national or international level. The induction ceremony is held annually during The Rental Show keynote session.
Melvin “Mel” Williams, the founder of Rent-A-Tool, of Revere was one of the early pioneers in the equipment rental industry. After serving in World War II, he opened Rent-A-Tool in 1954, two years before the founding of ARA. While it took time for word of ARA to spread from the Midwest, Williams was instrumental in bringing other equipment rental businesses together on the East Coast. Together with other rental businessmen in the Boston area, he created the Northeast Rental Equipment Association. The association eventually became known as the American Rental Association of Massachusetts.
Rent-A-Tool became an ARA member in 1963 and Williams soon became a well-respected authority on the equipment rental industry. He was an ambassador for nonmembers to join and become involved with ARA. He also was looked upon for assistance from other members who joined him at state and region meetings.
Williams was an innovator when it came to his rental inventory and processes. His creation of quality control, inventory management and yard management solutions are still seen throughout the industry today. He also was known to have no fear in expanding his rental inventory on hard-to-find items.
His claim to fame in the industry came with the development and enhancement of the portable diesel generator business. He was well-known for his marketing of these generators during the Northeast Niagara Falls blackout in 1965. He also shipped generators all over the U.S. during severe blackouts, floods and hurricanes.
He attended The Rental Show for 35 consecutive years, where he became an East Coast authority in the industry. At the show, manufacturers often would wait to get Williams’s opinion on new styles or designs of generators before marketing them in the industry. He was an expert on sound attenuation, series paralleling, expanding fuel consumption and other applications. He also was well known as an innovator of floodlight towers, generator load banks, and large-capacity air compressors and water pumps.
Williams was instrumental in forming relationships with heavy equipment manufacturers, so they would take the rental industry seriously. He wanted the industry to be credible even before he knew about ARA.
Before and during the creation of ARA, Williams already was ahead of the game. He understood the need for an association, as well as the importance of relationships with other members and suppliers. Even after his death in 1999, Williams’s impact on the equipment rental industry carries on and is still visible today.