The Kovatch Corporation and its fire truck division, KME, experienced their best year ever in 2012.

John Kovatch III, president and CEO of the firm, said KME has a backlog of firetruck orders "up over 250 percent from a year ago."

Kovatch spoke Tuesday night during a dinner program of the firm's sales representatives at Emeril's Chop House at the Sands Resort in Bethlehem.

The dinner capped a two-day conference, which included educational seminars. Kovatch said the theme for the national sales meeting was "Delivering the Difference."

More than 200 people attended the event including personnel from the firm's main plant in Nesquehoning, as well as sales representatives from throughout the United States, including Vancouver, Wash.; Honolulu, Hawaii; Ontario, Calif.; and Huntsville, Ala.

"This is a celebration of where we've been and where we're going," Kovatch said, adding that the fleet of fire trucks in Los Angeles County is now 100 percent KME vehicles.

In addition, major cities with multiple KME trucks include New York City, Atlanta, Boston, Nashville, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Honolulu.

KME also builds trucks for China and numerous other countries.

Kovatch said his firm recently received a major contract for vehicles for New York. He said this is an important contract since the New York City Fire Department is one of the most respected in the world.

Custom built

KME's appeal is that all trucks are custom built. Phil Gerace, director of sales and marketing, told the sales force, "KME builds trucks one at a time and you all contributed to that."

The biggest problem for the firm, Kovatch said, is finding qualified employees. He said the firm is presently looking to hire skilled workers, especially welders.

Kovatch said KME has dealers throughout the country just like Ford or Chrysler.

Bob Wirtz, Western Region accounts manager, based in Ontario, Calif., said he's pleased with the direction of KME.

"The Kovatch family has reinvested heavily in the business and is very committed to moving the business forward," Wirtz said.

According to Wirtz, Los Angeles County is already 100 percent KME and Los Angeles City is moving in that direction.

Jeffrey Mazza of Hopkinton, Mass., a KME dealer and owner of Bulldog Fire Apparatus, said he has been selling Kovatch vehicles since 2005."We're doing great in New England," he said. "We sold Boston all their trucks."

He said sales have been great throughout New England for KME, adding, "We're wreaking havoc up there."

Glenn Silvia, a sale representative for Bulldog, said, "Sales have been growing by leaps and bounds."

Other cities in New England that have purchased the KME vehicles include Quincy, Mass.; Brookline, Mass.; Newport, R.I., and Salem, Mass. In Salem, a witch logo is painted on the doors of the truck.

Gerald Oaks of Decatur, Ala., said he became a sales rep of KME when the Nesquehoning firm bought the Grummond Corp. in 1992. He said KME trucks are present in the Alabama cities of Dotham, Hoover, Huntsville, Decatur, Auburn, and Foley. Prior to 1992, KME "was non-existent in the south," Oaks said.

Awards

Various awards were presented for outstanding achievements of sales representatives for KME:

Award recipients are:

Ÿ Pinnacle Awards for increased sales over the previous year: 1. Safe Industries, Piedmont, S.C.; 2. Bulldog Fire Apparatus, Woodville, Mass.; 3. Metz Fire & Rescue, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

Ÿ Vision Awards for significant investments in the KME Brand: East Region, First Priority Emergency Vehicles, Manchester, N.J.; Southeast Region, Safe Industries, Piedmont, S.C.; Midwest Region, Mac's Fire & Safety, Litchfield, Ill.; West Region, Cascade Fire & Safety, Yakima, Wash.

Ÿ Summit Club for highest overall sales in the past year: 1. First Priority Emergency Vehicles, Manchester, N.J.; 2. Bulldog Fire Apparatus, Woodville, Mass.; 3. NAFECO, Decatur, Ala.

Check presentations

There were two check presentations made.

Another division of the Kovatch Corporation is Kovatch Racing, headed by John Kovatch IV. Kovatch Racing has two vehicles, one driving by Kovatch IV and the other by Mike Bednar. All money raised by the racing team is donated to charity with the Kovatch firm matching the amount. A check in the amount of $10,000 was presented to the Burn Prevention Network, headquartered in Allentown, and one totaling $10,250 was given to the Sonny Kovatch Scholarship Foundation, in honor of the firm's founder, the late John "Sonny" Kovatch II.

Kovatch IV said next year Kovatch Racing plans to have three cars and will be contributing to a third charity.