Business Spotlight: Built to Last

After 45 years in business, Northeast Diesel Service is fueling up for big changes in the industry

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After 25 years working in the diesel business, Mike Glover knows a thing or two about firing on all cylinders.

Glover is the manager and co-owner of Northeast Diesel Service of Springfield Inc., a diesel service and repair shop on East Division Street near the downtown airport. It’s a big industry: Diesel engines power trucks, trains, buses, boats, backup generators, and farm, construction and military vehicles. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, diesel fuel in 2019 accounted for 23% of the transportation sector’s total energy consumption.

Glover’s father, Joe, founded the company in 1976 as a one-man shop in Shelbina, a small town in northeast Missouri. Joe trained his sons Mike and Kevin with the intention of eventually turning over the business to them. Joe acquired a second location in Springfield and sent Mike to serve as manager in 1996. Kevin now manages the Shelbina shop, and the brothers have become co-owners.

“I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Mike Glover says. “I grew up in it, I went to the shop all the time after school and on weekends.”

As a manager, Glover is careful not to simply be “the boss’s son.” He tries to foster a culture of equality and inclusiveness among his 11-person team.

“I don’t say, ‘This is one of my employees,’ I say, ‘We work together,’” he says. “That distinction is important.”

Fueling growth
Dedication is part of the Northeast Diesel Service brand; it’s why employees like shop foreman Rick “Cooter” Perrigo have been with the company for more than 30 years.

“When you go down there, you see familiar faces,” says James Williams, a Northeast Diesel Service customer since the mid-1990s.

Williams is president and owner of J&L Contracting and Williams Construction Co., and he turns to Northeast Diesel for fuel injector and pump repairs on the construction, excavation and trucking equipment in his 300-machine fleet. For a dozen years, Northeast Diesel serviced all of the companies’ trucks before Williams built an in-house mechanic shop around 2012. Williams continues to turn to Northeast Diesel for service and parts, bringing anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 in annual business.

Williams says Glover and his team do high-quality work, and their integrity is what has cemented his loyalty over the years.

“They never steer me down the wrong path,” Williams says.

That sentiment forms the core of Glover’s leadership. A sign hanging on the front counter displays his family’s motto: “We believe business goes where it’s invited and stays where it’s well treated.”

The shop’s customers primarily are within a 150-mile radius, including O’Reilly Automotive Inc. (Nasdaq: ORLY), an engine rebuilder in Kansas City, and local agricultural equipment, tractor and auto dealers. Through social media, chatter on repair forums and appearances at car shows, word-of-mouth business also has picked up nationwide for individual hobbyists in the mud-truck, mega-truck and rat-rod worlds. One client that specializes in importing diesel-engine Toyota Land Cruisers sends a couple fuel pumps to Glover each month, even after relocating to Utah from Nixa.

Glover says the agriculture industry keeps them busy during the spring and summer months, but the shop’s diversification into other machinery has kept business up year-round. The business exceeded $1 million in revenue last year.

“We do industrial equipment, construction equipment, farm equipment, cars and pickups, semitrucks, lawnmowers, golf carts, generators – anything under the sun,” Glover says.

Shifting gears
Diesel engines are constantly evolving to keep up with new technologies and federal emissions standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Perrigo points out that the engines are shifting to electronic and computerized models instead of the mechanical fuel-injection models of the past.

To keep up, Glover and his team undergo regular training and update equipment to stay compliant with fuel manufacturer standards, though the complexity poses another hurdle in recruiting younger talent to the field.

In 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 281,300 jobs in the diesel service technology industry, and it projects 67,000 additional technicians will be needed to replace retired workers by 2022.

Northeast Diesel Service has worked with Ozarks Technical Community College’s diesel technology program for the past decade to offer student apprentice and training opportunities at the shop.

Glover acknowledges Northeast Diesel Service is experiencing growing pains. His 3-acre shop has five service bays, but after adding services, updating equipment and expanding the team over the past two decades, Glover is running out of space.

He plans to expand the business onto an adjoining 1.7-acre lot later this year.

“We are a proud north-side business, and we are going to stay right here,” Glover says.