Educated Risk

Fortbrand Services has adhered to a primary working credo in its years within an unpredictable GSE industry — stick to what you know. As a GSE leasing, financing and sales organization celebrating its 25th year, the principle has served the company well.

Back to Business
Fortbrand was founded as a second venture into the GSE industry by its president, Henry Foster, who began a prior company in 1960 to provide rental equipment for airlines and snow removal services at airport terminals in the New York area. Foster’s company was purchased by Hudson General Corporation (now Servisair) in 1967. Foster remained with the company until the early 1980s, which by then had been turned into a broad-based aviation services company.

Returning to the equipment sector, Foster formed a new company in 1983 — Fortbrand Services Inc.

A Wealth of Industry Knowledge
Since 1983, Fortbrand has emerged as a formidable force in the GSE industry, positioning itself as an intermediary for manufacturers and operators through risk transfer techniques and by providing services such as financing, leasing and rental of GSE to its customer base, which includes airlines, airport operators, the military, FBOs and aviation service companies.

Additionally, Fortbrand provides consulting services and equipment appraisals. It also acts as a North American distributor for specialized airfield maintenance equipment manufactured overseas, including airport snow removal systems, multitask sweepers and sprayers.

As a third-party player in the acquisition of GSE, Fortbrand has kept a clear focus on its purpose in the industry. “It’s really to meet the needs of our customers and to be able to structure financial transactions to meet those requirements,” says Henry Foster, president of Fortbrand.

Alan Stearn, who was president of Hudson General prior to joining Fortbrand in 1997, credits much of Fortbrand’s success to the experience of its personnel, which has resulted in the company’s ability to configure customer-specific financial transactions. “Our market knowledge and our expertise with GSE enable us to structure transactions that the typical financial institution would not be willing to handle,” he says.

Up for the Challenge
A post-9/11 industry that negatively impacted sales of GSE has now presented a new challenge for Fortbrand in recent years — keeping pace with the newly freed pent-up demand. “Recently, our biggest challenge has been meeting the demand for equipment due to the long lead times that manufacturers require to deliver new equipment, as well as the scarcity of used equipment due to the same factors,” says Rich Boily, Fortbrand’s vice president of sales.

“If a customer calls and says they want to immediately rent a ground power unit for a short term, it used to be that you could call up a manufacturer, and they would have one on the shelf,” says Peter Stearn, vice president of Fortbrand. “But now, if you call up the manufacturer, they are going to tell you it’s three or four months until they can deliver the equipment. So that hurts us if we don’t have a used unit in our inventory.”

In as volatile a market as GSE has proven to be in recent years, Fortbrand has geared itself to accommodate changes as they arise. “I think from the point of view of adapting to what’s going on in the marketplace, we are very flexible,” states Fred DiBenedetto, Fortbrand’s vice president of business development. “We are willing to take some prudent risks. For instance, we have purchased equipment for our own inventory without having customer commitments, so if customers call needing equipment immediately, we will have it available.”

By offering creative financing solutions and transferring risk to its own account, Fortbrand enables manufacturers to satisfy their customers’ needs, whatever they might be — from short-term rentals to long-term leases. This enables a manufacturer of GSE to acquire customers that it otherwise might not be able to acquire.

Sticking to What They Know
Alan Stearn believes that Fortbrand Services has sufficiently solidified its position in the industry with the wide range of services it has to offer to make it to yet another milestone anniversary. “I think the need for the type of service we have to offer will always be there,” he says. “In difficult economic times, our experience tells us that people will turn to a third party, so they don’t have to invest their own capital. When times are good, like they are now, if we have the equipment available and customers are unable to obtain it from a traditional source, such as a manufacturer, they turn to us.”

Though Fortbrand might consider expanding its airfield maintenance equipment distributorship business in the future, its plans remain steadfast to continue its formula for success. “I think we are very good at what we do. Our personnel have aggregated more than 100 years of experience in dealing with GSE and have accumulated detailed knowledge of all types of GSE and airfield maintenance equipment. Our capital resources enable us to meet whatever our customers’ requirements may be.” Foster says. “We are going to continue to do what we know best.”