The papers have been signed and what was once Robert Cooke Trucking is now a part of a larger environmental site remediation company, Ground Force, but new owners are hoping that customers won’t even notice the change.
Robert Cooke Trucking was an Elmira-based, family-run business that provided bins for waste disposal to millwrights and other manufacturing companies for the past 20 years. Owner Robert Cooke had been in discussion with Ground Force owner Dan Forsyth about the possibility of a purchase before he died suddenly in June of this year. Cooke, 67, was directing a forklift at Advance Millwrights when he was struck and killed by a piece of scrap metal.
“The way that it all happened was very tough,” said Forsyth of the business takeover. “Bob and I had made the deal for us to buy the company on the Friday and he passed away on the Monday. It’s already an emotional process to buy a company from a family who has built something from the ground up. They did everything they could to make it so successful over the years, so the way it happened made it even harder.”
Following Cooke’s death, the shares of the business went to his wife, who helped to ease the transition for the staff at Ground Force. Originally, the plan was for Forsyth and his company to purchase Robert Cooke Trucking and incorporate it into their larger business model. Prior to the merger, Ground Force, a company that just started up in 2009, rented bins from a company like Cooke’s in order to transport contaminated soils or other materials from a waste site. Now, with the machinery they received from Cooke, they are able to be self sustaining with their materials. They plan to keep the company’s name for the time being.
“Joining with Robert Cooke Trucking was a really good fit for us,” said Ground Force project manager Kristin Kent. “What he did was another side of the waste industry that we are in. We want to continue to provide that good service that he did and then add a few services for the customers as well.”
In addition to providing bins for the removal of waste, Ground Force will implement the cleanup of a contaminated site and perform the necessary actions to get the area back to its original state. With the incorporation of Cooke’s equipment and client base, Ground Force plans to make the trucks available for hire and also roll out a new, computerized system for directing the trucks to their desired locations. In the future, the staff at Ground Force hope to expand to province-wide service with an even wider range of services for their customers.
“We have always had trucks of our own to do our own services – to move equipment back and forth to job sites, to haul contaminated soil, to haul gravel,” said Forsyth. “Everything that we deal with is heavy.
We have never actually been in the trucking business per se, but we have always had trucks for our own business. This is the first time we have stepped out of that to where we have had trucks that are out for hire, which is neat.”
But despite the incorporation of the trucking company into the larger environmental clean-up umbrella, the maintenance of the Robert Cooke name and reputation are extremely important to Ground Force.
“Robert Cooke was well known around here. He was in the business for 20 years,” said Forsyth. “He was honest and that’s why we hooked up with him, because he had the same values that we did.
“Bob was also really proud of his equipment, and shortly after we purchased the company we bought a brand new truck. I really wish he could have been around to see that because I know he would have been proud to have had his name right there on the side.”