Ok. It isn’t my dump truck really. It belongs to Peaks Island. The whole island.
Actually, that’s an exaggeration too. If you want to get technical, the dump truck belongs to Lionel Plante Associates—better know on the island as LPA. But I can’t help feeling a sense of ownership for the truck because I helped win it. The whole island did.
I got a dump truck! I got a dump truck!
LPA is a business owned by the Mulkern family. (Lionel Plante died in 1998. His wife, Catherine Mulkern Plante and her siblings Coley, Terry and Bridget continue to run the company.)
As this is a small island, the Mulkerns run a highly diverse business. They own a marina. They run a barge service that transports large publics works trucks, dumpsters and such to Peaks and other Casco Bay islands. LPA does excavating and heavy landscaping (say you need to rebuild your sea wall). They have a heating oil business. There is an automotive gas pump. And they own a laundromat. They also own the only helipad on the island—which gets used approximately once a year. There are probably two or three other lines of business that I’ve missed…
The dump truck, obviously, is for the excavating and landscaping part of the business.
The story behind winning the truck went like this. In October, Caterpillar ran a contest where 300 companies submit videos on its website explaining who they were and why they deserved to win a new dump truck. The Mulkerns entered. (Their winning video is the fourth one down on the right.)
You would have thought that the odds were stacked against Peaks Island, a community of just 800 year round residents/5000 summer residents. How could we get more votes than a construction company a larger market—say Boston or Modesto or even Toledo? But we have a secret weapon that no one else does: A fabulous community email list.
Twice during the two-week contest, Coley Mulkern, vice president of LPA sent out an email with a link asking everyone on the island to vote. Each person was allowed to vote once every day.
Turns out that for a very small community, the Internet can be a great equalizer. A total of 50,000 votes were cast in the contest. When the votes were counted, LPA was the winner with 3,000 votes.
LPA invited the entire island to celebrate the arrival of the truck. Several hundred people came out despite a gray and damp day.
People crowded under the tent.
There were free t-shirts. Maybe not a big deal to you, but most Peaks Islanders don’t get to many trade shows. Plus, most Islanders are notoriously cheap. So around here, free t-shirts are a very big deal!
The guys from the Lions Club grilled burgers. These were free too–so they went really fast.
People from Caterpillar corporate and the local CAT dealer shot video and made speeches.
The CAT people’s speeches sounded like pitches for us all to buy more CAT dump trucks. Honestly, I felt a little bad for the CAT folks. I’m sure their trucks are every bit as dependable, rugged and durable as they said. But in a community this small, we only need so many dump trucks. In reality, the dump truck LPA had won will take care of our needs for years to come. There will be no dump truck purchases here for a long, long time.
The crowd roared when the guy from CAT handed the keys over to Coley. Then we all stepped out into the drizzle to wait for the arrival (by sea) of the new dump truck.
The build-up was very dramatic. Everyone squinted into the fog as dynamic John Williams-type music roared through speakers. Da da, da-da-da DA DA….
Then, the fireboat emerged from the mist spraying water into the air.
The LPA barge followed carrying the new truck and 50 cheering CAT employees.
Note the ribbon on the hood of the truck–like in those car commercials around the holidays. Imagine waking up and finding a dump truck in your driveway on Christmas morning. Now that would be a surprise.
Twenty-year old Nathaniel Mulkern received the honor of driving the truck off of the barge. Years ago, Nathaniel was one of my daugther’s classmates in the combined 3rd, 4th and 5th grade class at the Peaks Island Elementary School.
Nathaniel piloted the truck down the ramp and onto land. The truck was christened by Catherine and cake followed.
As an additional thank you to the Island, LPA donated $2100 of heating fuel to Peaks Island Energy and Tax Assistance (PIETA)—a program that helps families who need assistance paying their fuel and tax bills. Between the free burgers and t-shirts, the free dump truck and the free fule oil, this was one time where everyone did win.
Whenever I see the truck go by, I can’t help thinking, “There goes my dump truck!”
Score: ten points for small community—rest of the world, zero.