Harold Neal, Neal Mfg., Dies at 63

Harold Neal, president of Neal Equipment Manufacturing, Villa Rica, GA, died April 1. He was 63.

Despite the fact that he did not have an engineering background, Mr. Neal was an innovator in the pavement maintenance industry, pushing development of equipment in an effort to improve efficiency and sealer application speed. He founded Neal Manufacturing Company in 1978 in Sand Hill, GA, with one employee and began manufacturing a ride-on applicator, a 175-gal. squeegee machine. Since then he was instrumental in numerous developments and innovations that have helped grow the pavement maintenance industry.

"At that time people were doing sealcoating as a business, but it definitely became more efficient and more profitable once that machine was introduced," said Brett Neal, one of Mr. Neal's sons and marketing manager of Neal Mfg.. "From that point on it was always his goal with the equipment he built, including the piston pump, to increase profit for the contractor."

Brett Neal says that at the time Mr. Neal introduced the ride-on applicator most sealcoating contractors were applying sealer out of buckets and by hand, so the ride-on unit attracted a lot of attention. Mr. Neal followed it four years later with a 210-gal. model, the largest in the industry at that time.

"Harold was an industry icon. He was a visionary with equipment," said Mark McLeod, vice president of Maintenance Inc., and a close friend and business associate of Mr. Neal's. "He was more than a pioneer in the equipment business for pavement maintenance contractors, he was a there for the guys who were just starting out, teaching them how to do the work and extending them credit when they really didn't have anything to back it up."

The next step in the evolution of the sealcoating business was the spray applicator, and while Mr. Neal wasn't the first to bring that machine to the market, he went to work improving what was available. O'Dell Manufacturing built the industry's first spray sealer applicator, a 200-gal. machine powered by a Roper steel gear pump. But that machine had no agitation and could not spray sealer mixed with sand.

Mr. Neal recognized the value of the spray method and in 1981 introduced the industry's first 550-gal. tow-behind spray applicator. The Neal 550's spray system was driven by a Bowie rubber gear pump and featured in-tank agitation - another industry first.

"The 550 really gave contractors a way to efficiently and profitably sealcoat large areas such as parking lots," Brett Neal said.

But Mr. Neal wasn't satisfied with the pumping system so he developed the Neal ESP Piston Pump, which was brought to the market in 1984 and is still a mainstay in sealcoating systems today. The first pumping system designed specifically for sealcoating equipment, the ESP Piston pump eliminates gears, increasing pump durability and reducing maintenance. The ESP pumped 50 gpm, an unprecedented volume at the time, and was also able to provide an uninterrupted flow of material under an even pressure to the spray bar or wand. Combining this pump with aspects of the 550 tow-behind spray applicator and the 210-gal. ride-on squeegee machine, Neal Mfg. introduced the industry's first ride-on spray machine in 1985.

In 1986 Neal introduced the ESSP 100-gpm pumping system, which also advanced production for contractors. Because of the higher pumping capability Neal Mfg. was able to introduce the material spray bar, which could be attached to the rear of any Neal unit. And, because of the increased psi provided with the ESSP Pump, contractors could use a distributor bar to spray material, with sand, up to 15 ft. wide without a loss of pressure.

That lead to the development of the DA-350 in 1987, the industry's first ride-on dual applicator machine outfitted with a squeegee, a spray bar, and two hand wands, resulting in a higher level of efficiency for contractors.

"My Dad built his business by knowing what contractors needed and trying to make it for them," Brett Neal said. "He designed and built all the equipment so it would last and he designed it to keep repairs to a minimum because he knew contractors needed to spend more time on the job and less time in the shop."

Mr. Neal sold Neal Manufacturing to Ingersoll-Rand in early 2000. After a five-year break he re-entered the business in 2005.

Mr. Neal is survived by his wife, Debbie Miles Neal; children, Craig Neal, Amy Neal, Brett Neal, Justin Keaton, and Miles Neal; sisters, Joy Walters and Brenda Jacks; brother, Tommy Neal; three grandchildren; and a niece.

Memorial contributions may be made to Cheers Children Charity, 804 Maple St., Carrollton, GA. 30117.