Follow your passion and kick start a business with FAE equipment
James Sokalski always knew he’d get into forestry.
“As a kid I was always fascinated by excavators and forestry machines. I would ride my mountain bike 10 miles to where they were logging just to see how they did it.” But despite his interest, there was no easy way to break into the industry. “No one in my family did this job: I had to find my own way of getting into it.” And this he did.
A high school engineering course led to James getting a work placement with Treescape Ltd, an arboriculture and land management company in New Zealand. That experience would later evolve into an apprenticeship as a diesel mechanic.
It was at Treescape that James first got to know FAE mulchers. Of his first experiences with FAE equipment, he says: “I remember that they never gave any problems: I was always amazed by what they could shred, and their power and performance”.
At Treescape, James would work three or four days in the workshop and do another couple of days in the field. He mainly handled smaller tasks, but sometimes got the chance to operate heavy machinery. In this way, he was able to develop his skill as an operator. Treescape later bought a brand new FAE fixed-tooth mulcher for the 8-tonne excavator and I was lucky enough to help get it ready to go out on site. I’d already used some other brands, but I was amazed by what the fixed-tool mulcher could handle and the speed and the performance of the head”.
After three years with Treescape, James bought an excavator and set out on his own. He founded JPS Earthmoving in 2018.
It was an exciting time, but there were plenty of challenges. “I had never worked officially as an operator, so I was basically a diesel mechanic pretending I could drive a machine for the first year…[over time] I started to get more and more work and started to get a bit of a name for myself”.
In 2018, his company got a big clearing job that meant having to get some new attachments. “By then I knew I would only buy FAE. I got a brand new UML/EX/VT 150 fixed-tooth mulcher and an SCM/EX/VT stump cutter and worked over the Christmas holidays cleaning up the area. The customers were amazed at what we’d done and that we’d finished the job".
Word spread and JPS Earthmoving gradually became known for its mulching expertise and vegetation management capabilities.
“We always used FAE equipment on all our machines and at the high point we had two fixed-tooth mulchers for 20 ton excavators, a stump cutter for 20 ton excavators, a mulcher for 180 hp tractors and a mulcher for 5 ton excavators. FAE support and quality meant we could do the job properly right from the off and minimize downtime".
Things were going well with JPS Earthmoving, but James had bigger plans.
“In late 2022, I decided I wanted to move to the States. My aim was to go to Tennessee and start a logging company ”.
So, at the age of 22 James arrived in the USA with three suitcases and nothing else, ready to start over. But he knew what he needed to get started. “There was no doubt about what brand of equipment to use: it had to be FAE ”. He got in touch with the local FAE dealer Tennessee Valley Equipment and bought his first FAE in the USA: a PT-300.
|“It was a machine I could only dream of using in New Zealand.
It was an FAE so I knew that it would be well built,
but only when I started using it did I realize how good it really was”.
Although James was totally pleased with the quality of the equipment, he was almost more enthusiastic about the aftercare.
“The support is second to none and to have local dealers like Tennessee Valley Equipment with their product knowledge and help from people like Chris Willson and his team is something very hard to find these days with any brand. They’re always there to help you when you need it and they really like to share their passion for the product. You call them at any hour of the day and 99% of the time they’ll have the spare part right there on the shelf. If they don't have it, Chris will go take the part from another machine to get you back up and running”.
James set up JPS USA LLC in May 2023 and has big plans for growth. He’s currently thinking of buying a stump cutter for his PT-300 and a BL4/EX for his excavator. But one thing is clear: New Zealand or Tennessee, when you want the job done right, there’s only one choice: it’s got to be FAE or nothing.
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