Wyoming Machinery Company is growing.

Wyoming Machinery Company is growing.

The Casper-based Caterpillar dealer signed a contract to add additional coal-mining machinery to its business in a move that will create a Gillette facility with 85 employees.

Wyoming Machinery acquired distribution for the former Bucyrus brand line of heavy-duty coal mining equipment. Bucyrus specialized in mining shovels, drag lines, underground equipment, large hydraulic excavators and unit rig trucks.

Wyoming Machinery President/CEO Rich Wheeler said the purchase makes the company's product line, offered mainly to coal mining companies, more complete with the addition of the heavier underground equipment formerly produced by Bucyrus.

“It’s a great opportunity for Wyoming Machinery because our customer base is the same one we have been servicing through our history,” he said. “This gives us better solutions for our customers for mining. Now we have the complete product line that coal miners use to do their business.”

Wyoming Machinery has sold and serviced Caterpillar equipment in Wyoming since Wheeler’s father Dick Wheeler bought the Wyoming Caterpillar dealership for most of Wyoming in 1969. The elder Wheeler’s father and grandfather had sold equipment, including Caterpillar, in Utah. So Rich Wheeler says he is a fourth-generation “Cat” dealer.

Cat bought Bucyrus in 2011 and now is selling dealers the option to service parts and sell the former Bucyrus equipment. Wyoming Machinery is one of the first dealers to complete the incorporation of Bucyrus into its business. Wheeler said there is a “huge existing population of the former Bucyrus equipment in Wyoming. Now we will provide parts and service.”

The purchase includes 85 more employees to give Wyoming Machinery a total workforce of 760 in Cheyenne, Casper, Rock Springs and Gillette.

Coal miners have been Wyoming Machinery’s main customers, but the purchase of the Bucyrus line will allow expansion into the trona production taking place in the western part of the state.

“There is some underground opportunity in Rock Springs where there are four trona mines in the area,” said Richard Oates, the company’s vice president of mining.

“Trona mining is underground and we haven’t been a player in that market,” he said.

The expansion “diversifies our business a lot,” Wheeler said.

The company opened a new Rock Springs Cat facility employing 45 people in 2012. Its Casper plant expansion, the company headquarters, was built in 1976 and is where 41 percent of the employees, 315, are employed. Other locations include a Gillette facility in addition to the Bucyrus location that has 272 employees and a Cheyenne facility with 48 workers.

One function of the large, clean component rebuild center in Casper is to bring in components of the heavy mining equipment that need cleaning and rebuilding. Once the work is done, Wyoming Machinery runs various tests to be sure there are no leaks before the components are installed back in the machinery.

The company hires many of its technicians, mechanics and machinists from the Casper College diesel program, Gillette College and WyoTech in Laramie. The company has four full-time in-house trainers to work with new employees.

Wheeler said this is a good time to plan and prepare, because the coal industry currently is struggling.

“Our whole business model is reliant on coal mining,” he said, explaining that the company has been through boom and bust multiple times and they “are confident that coal will come back.”