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Irwin reflects on challenges and growth since 2021

By Erin Jorgensen

December 1, 2023

Scott Irwin

Scott Irwin, president, Delux Rental, Ypsilanti, Mich., has served as an American Rental Association (ARA) officer for the last three years, including president-elect in 2021, as ARA’s 60th president in 2022 and as board chair in 2023.

Delux Rental was founded in 1966 by Scott’s father, William (Bill) Irwin, and his mother, Donna Irwin, and has been at the same location in Ypsilanti since 1978. Scott and his wife, Sue, purchased the business in 2014. Delux Rental has been an ARA member since 1972.

As he prepares to complete his service to the ARA board at the conclusion of The ARA Show™ 2024 in New Orleans, Irwin talked with Rental Management about how the association and the equipment and event rental industry has evolved during his time on the ARA board.

Rental Management: As you complete your three years as an officer, how would you assess the state of the association today versus three years ago?

Scott Irwin: Three years ago, the association was going through the fallout of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Many stores closed or were going through consolidation, and The ARA Show was cancelled in 2022, making it a difficult year for the ARA. The ARA board of directors made a decision to go full speed ahead and keep all of the programs in development on track. I believe that helped show the members that we were committed to making sure they had the resources they needed to navigate the hard times following COVID-19. The association is very strong right now. Membership is at an all-time high, there are more programs and certifications available to our members, and there are more coming. The industry hasn’t fully recovered from the effects of COVID-19, but the future looks very bright.

Rental Management: What do you consider to be the association’s key accomplishments over the last three years?

Irwin: I think that the decision to keep all of the programs that were in development active was very important and I feel it was the key accomplishment of the past three years. That decision kept the equipment certification program active, the mobile elevating work platform (MEWP) certification active resulting in both of the programs being finished and both are now in use nationwide by ARA members. The decision also allowed the ARA to create a job board, student membership program, a workforce development initiative and keep the nationwide consumer awareness program active.

Rental Management: What are you most excited about when you look at the projects and products ARA already has updated or introduced, and others that will be launched in 2024?

Irwin: I am very excited about a number of things that are in development. The “Jobs of Tomorrow” video series that has been introduced is a great way to introduce people to the world of rental and all the opportunities the rental industry has to offer. There are more certifications on the horizon as well. ARA will introduce a forklift certification program and a telehandler certification in the months to come. Rental Management is starting to use a digital format allowing our associate members to use digital advertising to highlight their products while giving our general members more options in how they get information about the rental industry. Our customer awareness program is going to stay very active as is our workforce development and our student membership program should reach 1,000 members in 2024. There are so many things happening to improve our members’ access to information which can help them make critical decisions easier.

“My message is pretty simple —
get involved in the rental community.”
— Scott Irwin, president, Delux Rental and board chair, American Rental Association

Rental Management: Having served as an ARA officer, how do you think the equipment and event rental industry is evolving and what might the future hold?

Irwin: The industry is growing yearly and all indications suggest the growth is going to continue as our society increases using a shared economy. The industry as a whole is going to be heavily reliant on information and technology. As the labor force gets tighter, companies are going to have to use technology to help solve logistics, delivery and equipment diagnosis. The cost of equipment is also going up at a rapid rate so understanding utilization and ROI [return on investment] is going to be more important than it has ever been. The event industry is changing rapidly as well as tents and structures are becoming very complicated, and more operators are turning to equipment to assist in the setup of modern tents and structures. Technology is also going to help operators develop and execute more accurate delivery schedules, and GPS tracking is being used to better track how effective the schedule is being completed. GPS is also being used for equipment tracking as is geofencing to help prevent theft. What I’ve mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg. Technology is advancing rapidly and it is going to become very important to all ARA operations.

Rental Management: What did you learn and what will you most remember from your three-year term as an ARA officer?

Irwin: I have learned so much, but I think the thing that will stick with me is that we are all facing the same challenges. While on the board, I was able to travel to many rental stores across the nation and we are all having the same issues of not being able to find key employees, changing technology and how to keep up with it, new state government regulations, supply chain issues and many more. Having common issues allows the ARA to develop programs that can benefit a large number of our members. Programs such as the ARA MEWP certification, the Safe Tenting Initiative, the revamped CERP [Certified Event Rental Professional] and Driver Training programs, the “Jobs of Tomorrow” video series and the workforce development initiative, just to mention a few. Having common issues has allowed the formation of the Young Professional Network (YPN) and Women in Rental which allows groups to meet and share information that helps them grow. Getting input from rental store owners and key employees is what drives ARA future programs and member input is how the programs are created and developed.

Rental Management: As you complete your service as an ARA officer, what message do you have for those in the equipment and event rental industry?

Irwin: My message is pretty simple — get involved in the rental community. We have 37 state and three local chapters that are all very active. Your attendance at the state and local meetings allows for many networking opportunities that can truly help you grow your business. The ARA has so many great educational opportunities through RentalU, and The ARA Show is a great opportunity to learn, network and find the newest trends in equipment and supplies to help grow your business. Networking with people inside the rental industry is the greatest. Discussing common issues with people in the industry helps. It really helps. Getting involved in the rental community is the best business decision I have ever made.