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Sisters Debbie Divine, of Selina, Kan., and Robbie Grady, of Hooksett, feel Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers is a great match for their family's land on Hackett Hill Road. (BARBARA TAORMINA PHOTO))

Coming to town

Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers breaks ground in Hooksett

Regional managers, vice presidents and other company officials from Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers got some use out of a half dozen fresh shovels Wednesday morning at an official groundbreaking ceremony for the company's new auction site in Hooksett.

Ritchie Bros., the world's largest industrial auction house, has signed a five-year lease with the Palazzi Corp. for 54 acres of space at 39 Hackett Hill Road, just off of exit 11 on Route 93. The company, which deals with used equipment for construction, transportation, agricultural, mining, forestry and other industries hopes to hold it first auction sometime in November.

"This has been a couple of years in the making," said Regional Sales Manager Stephen O'Duggan, who added that the first phase of construction will involve developing between 18 and 25 acres for equipment display space.

A temporary auction tent with seating for 300, an equipment check-in building and paved parking are also part of the company's phase-one plans.

While the Hackett Road site will only need a handful of full-time employees, there will be temp work opportunities throughout the year.

"As we ramp up, we bring people in to help with the auctions," said Anthony Saponaro, the company's northeast regional operations manager.

Hooksett Town Administrator Dean Shankle attended the groundbreaking to officially welcome the company to town, and to pick up a complimentary Ritchie Bros. baseball cap.

The company has a long history of auctioneering in New England, and held its first auction in New Hampshire in 1985.

Ritchie Bros. launched an auction site in Stafford Springs, Conn., in 2006 and has since drawn more than 15,000 bidders and sold 11,000 pieces of equipment.

"There will be a lot of spin-off for Hooksett with the auctions," said Shankle. "When people come, they will be looking for a place to stay, a place to eat."

Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers was launched in 1958 by three brothers in British Columbia, Canada, who wanted to sell some surplus inventory from their furniture store to pay a bank loan. Inspired by their success, the brothers started holding regular auctions and soon began offering more than furniture.

Over time the company expanded into the United States, then Europe, Australia, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers went public in 1998, and is now listed as RBA on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges.

Despite the growth, the company still runs according to basic rules. There are no minimum or reserved bids, and every item is sold on auction day to customers who bid either in person or online.

"It's very fast-paced and very exciting," Saponaro said. "And we give buyers and sellers opportunities at the best competitive prices."

The company offers a huge variety of equipment. Under its agricultural inventory, it lists tractors, combines, livestock equipment, sprayers, spreaders and dozens of other machines. But the company also auctions busses, dump trucks, cranes, excavators and other heavy equipment from many major manufacturers.

Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers will be taking over the former home of the Palazzi Corp., a construction company that built many of New Hampshire's major highways, including the F.E. Everett Turnpike.

Over the years, others companies including Cabela's and Home Depot have considered building on the site.

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