Within the last month the paving and pavement maintenance industry has lost two people who made an impact, and we would be remiss if we didn't take note of their passing. Harold Neal, president of Neal Equipment Manufacturing, died April 1 at age 63. On April 24 Phil Merrick, a 24-year salesperson at Cygnus Business Media, died at the age of 50. Both men died too young, both left families, and both left their mark in this industry.
Harold Neal was an industry stalwart, a true entrepreneur, and a visionary. He understood the paving and pavement maintenance industry, but more important he understood the people - the contractors - who put in long days and long weeks over short seasons, and he spent much of his career as a manufacturer growing his company by helping contractors make more money for themselves and their families. Greater efficiency, improved productivity, higher-quality work; Harold Neal knew that's what contractors needed and if you talk to enough people at a National Pavement Expo you'll undoubtedly run across someone who was given a chance by Harold - either through training, a loan extended, or even just troubleshooting on a job. In fact, Harold Neal laid the foundation for what was to become National Pavement Expo by hosting "customer appreciation" events at a hotel in Atlanta in the early 1980s. Contractors could attend educational sessions ranging from how to sealcoat or stripe to marketing and how to run a business, and they would invariably leave these events with a new piece of equipment - a new piece of Neal equipment - in tow. Harold Neal "got" this industry, and this industry is better off because of him.
Phil Merrick "got" this industry, too. Most readers won't have met Phil; his main contacts were with potential advertisers, both in this magazine and in other Cygnus magazines, particularly Equipment Today. But Phil made his mark in this industry because he figured it out, was able to convey that to his customers, and helped them improve their business by reaching the appropriate buyers. Phil took the time to learn what the pavement maintenance industry was all about. That helped him, it helped his clients, it helped this magazine, and we will miss him.