Mike Watts
Mike Watts (Photo courtesy of Sunstate Equipment Rental)

As Sunstate Equipment Rental celebrates 40 years of business this year, its founder and executive chairman, Mike Watts, announces that he will retire this February.

Watts will continue to serve as an advisor to the board. With this change, Sunstate’s partner, Sumitomo Corp., will assume full ownership of the company.

Watts’ son, Chris Watts, will continue to lead the equipment rental company as CEO.

“After 47 years in the rental industry, starting Sunstate and building it over the past 40 years, I feel very comfortable and satisfied with our position in the industry, the caliber of business we have built, and the opportunities for the future,” Watts said on his retirement.

Watts started working in the rental industry in 1970 before he started Sunstate with his wife in 1977 with four employees. Watts acquired Beldon Rentals and changed its name to Sunstate Equipment Rentals in 1977.

The business ultimately grew to 61 locations in 9 states becoming the 24th largest rental company in the world, currently ranked No. 7 on the RER 100 listing of the 100 largest rental companies in North America.

ARA Hall of Fame
Watts was inducted into ARA Hall of Fame in 2010. From left: Chris Watts, Mike Watts, Cindy Watts (Mike’s wife) and daughter Lori. (Photo courtesy of Sunstate Equipment Rentals)

Watts was inducted into the ARA Rental Hall of Fame in 2010 for his contributions to the rental industry.

Watts said he is proud of Sunstate’s success and the positive culture it has developed. Sunstate’s culture is one based off of creating an environment that allows employees to feel valued, have opportunities for growth and holding everyone accountable, he said.

“The belief remains the same, that when we do this, people enjoy coming to work each day and make small improvements so we can continue to build a great business. I am especially pleased that my son, Chris Watts, will have the opportunity with his ability to take Sunstate to an even higher level.” Watts said.