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Oil Equipment Company: a versatile company in the oil, fuel industry

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By Nathan Prewett

For the Tribune

TRUSSVILLE – Oil Equipment Company is sort of a jack of all trades when it comes to oil-related jobs. From building gas stations to remodeling, OEC is a versatile company that builds relationships with its client base, making it a favorite among customers.

The history of the Trussville company stretches back fairly far as Smith estimated that it’s about 70 to 73 years old, having started in the mid 1940s.

OEC sells the products used in moving liquids such as petroleum, and bulk oil.

“We’ve been in the business of moving liquids, mainly petroleum liquids, for the history of the company,” he said. “From my knowledge of talking to the previous owners of the business, I know it started out as more of a gear pump type of operation where we are moving bulk liquids.”

“We would sell and service these mechanical gear pumps in the old days,” he said. “And then as time went on, I think it was in the late 60s that we got into the retail gasoline pump distributorship. There were some companies in business back then that manufactured gas pumps that are no longer in business.”

Smith said that in the 70s OEC began distributing for Gilbarco Veeder-Root, a fuel dispensing company that it continues to represent today. OEC is the Gilbarco distributor in the north/central Alabama region. In the 1980s, Smith’s predecessor made construction a part of the company.

Construction projects include installing underground storage tanks, as well as plumbing and electrical. OEC also builds the convenience stores that you so often see at gas stations.

“For a number of years we were just a subcontractor doing the work on fuel installations,” Smith said. “In the early 90s we became a licensed general contractor, because there were other companies out there that were doing that. Which meant they were in control of the complete job.”

“And we were getting knocked out of our portion of the work, so he decided it would be better if we could do it all. We could go to our clients and offer the whole service. Not only could we build your gas station, put in your car wash and build your canopy, we built your building.”

He said that since becoming a licensed general contractor, OEC is now licensed in six states in the Southeast: Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia. Projects are currently underway in Moundville, Alabama; Lake Village, Arkansas and Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

But OEC doesn’t always build convenience stores. In addition to these, OEC also builds strip centers, restaurants, and quick oil change facilities as well as site grading and demolition.

OEC’s Trussville office is home to a parts store that Smith said is open to the public. Products include hoses, nozzles, filters and other items.

“We have a pretty regular walk-in business here,” Smith said.

He has been with the company since 1987, starting as a minimum wage construction worker and working his way up to president. He bought the company in 2006. OEC was originally located in downtown Birmingham and moved to the Trussville area in February of 2015.

“We really like Trussville,” Smith said. “I really love the way the city supports the local school system. We try to support as best we can the city and all activities and programs that come our way, we try to support.”

One of the ways that OEC supports Trussville is through cookouts for first responders. This year OEC hosted a cookout where firefighters and police officers, as well as Trussville Mayor Buddy Choat and the city council, were invited to the office. Smith said that he will make this an annual event for first responders.

Much of the customer base at OEC is repeat business, Smith said. It’s most certainly not uncommon to work with the same clients on construction projects and other jobs.

“I think a key to our success is that we really try to stand behind what we build,” he said. “Standard industry construction is one-year warranty. And we go way beyond that, standing behind, backing up what we do – I think that’s really helped us with repeat business. And that’s what we strive for – repeat business.”

“We’re not the most expensive, we’re not the cheapest,” he said. “We want to be very competitive on the price but we want to be the best at standing behind what we build. That’s what we’ve built our reputation on. That, plus I’ll say building relationships.

Relationships are one of the cornerstones of OEC, something that Smith said helps the business “take care of itself.”

Smith stressed that the company’s people are just as important as he wants them to see it as a home and a long-term investment of their skills. Some of the employees there have been around for some time since being hired.

“We focus with our employees on finding the right person, hiring good solid people that want a long-term job,” he said. “Not only do they want a job, they want a place to call home. We’re old fashioned. We don’t hire, and when you get a little bit older, kick you to the curb and bring in somebody younger. Our people are our biggest asset. There’s no doubt about that.”

OEC currently employs 38 individuals and is proud to boast and average years of service of 11 years among its staff. Smith said, “We even have one employee who recently celebrated 52 years with OEC.”

Oil Equipment Company is located at 6841 Gadsden Highway in Trussville and can be reached at 205-252-6961. For more information on, visit oilequipmentco.com.

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