Jason Gendron, CEO of Mercury GSE, tells Airside all about the US-based full-service GSE rental and leasing specialist, and how it is currently enjoying exponential growth
Mercury GSE traces its origins back to 1948, when a number of former Flying Tigers launched a refuelling and ground handling business at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The Flying Tigers were US volunteers who flew in combat against the Japanese over China and Burma in the early 1940s under Claire Chennault.
Their operation at LAX grew and, in 1977, a ground support equipment division of the company was created under the leadership of Ron Spiegel, who was to become the company’s president. The division began with small contracts for leasing out individual items of GSE as well as repairing other GSE at its LAX base. It later added a larger facility away from the airport at Cerritos, California.
In 1988 the company was purchased by private equity and its GSE division was spun out privately. Thus, since the late 1980s, the prime focus of Mercury GSE has been its GSE business. Then, in late 2017, Gendron through his investment group – Cembrus Capital – acquired the company and put in a new management team. Since then, it has achieved some 600% growth in just under five years, Gendron informs. “It’s been a wild ride,” he says.
Mercury GSE sells second-hand GSE but it is perhaps better known for its full-service rental and leasing options. It refurbishes GSE and then offers the units to customers, sometimes in near zero-time (near-new) condition. Its Lease & Rent division is still based close to LAX, at Santa Fe Springs, at a 35,000 square foot state-of-the-art maintenance and storage facility, while since last year Mercury GSE has also had a maintenance facility at Dallas Fort Worth Airport (DFW).
The company now has about 40 full-time employees at its West Coast and Midwest sites, about 25 of whom are mechanics. Another 70 or so people serve as freelance, contracting workers.
Mercury GSE offers equipment including cargo loaders, pushback tractors, ground power units (GPUs), air start units (ASUs), belt loaders, dollies, stairs and baggage tugs – a full range of GSE, both motorised and non-motorised. In the latter category, it offers both diesel and electric equipment. One of its fastest-growing lines of business is to take in diesel-powered GSE and convert it to battery-powered configuration before renting or leasing the electric equipment to either the same or a different customer.
While the company is able to offer customers just about any sort of GSE, typically from the most reputable of manufacturers including JBT, TLD, Textron, LEKTRO and FAST Global Solutions, Gendron has looked to specialise in certain lines. Cargo handling has long been a primary focus of Mercury GSE, for example, and today it can probably offer more cargo loaders than any other North American supplier, Gendron believes. It currently has more than 20 maindeck or lower deck loaders in its inventory available for sale, lease or rental.
All of Mercury GSE’s sales and rentals come with full-service maintenance options and it offers much more than financing with its rental and lease deals. “We supply GSE as a service,” Gendron declares.
Mercury GSE chooses to offer only high-quality motorised and non-motorised units. Environmental issues also feature highly in the company’s thinking. For example, for diesel units it prefers Cummins Tier 4 compliant engines.
The pandemic has encouraged many GSE operators to consider rental and leasing options in preference to purchases, Gendron believes, and this has further boosted that area of Mercury GSE’s business.
Indeed, while Mercury GSE’s leasing and rental business has historically been used by GSE operators to “fill a gap” for short periods when they suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves in need of specific items of GSE, now non-purchase options are becoming much more mainstream, he observes.
There is no problem with demand for Mercury GSE’s services – in fact, it is meeting those demands that is currently more of a challenge, because there is a shortage of GSE feedstock at the moment, with global component supply chains having been impacted of late by various issues, not least Covid and raw material/mineral shortages.
But the potential for further growth remains strong, and Gendron confirms that Mercury is currently considering the possibility of opening a facility on the US East Coast, as well as looking at potential options with regard to company acquisitions. Another possibility is expanding into new markets, most likely launching a presence in the European market.