Area man turns lifelong love of heavy equipment into a new career.
Many children enjoy playing in the dirt, but Bill Atkinson’s love of toy trucks has finally landed him in an earth-moving career.
Photograph by Sarah Maughan
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
Fascinated with heavy equipment for as long as he can remember, Bill Atkinson, 37, owner of Bill’s Earth Services, recently turned his passion for moving dirt into a skid-steer-for-hire career.
You could say he’s playing the heavy — heavy equipment, that is.
Blame it on the Tonka trucks he played with as a kid, or the construction crews he’d watch for hours as they skillfully maneuvered machines to bust concrete or change landscapes. For Atkinson, it was like watching a mechanical ballet of sorts, and often he would try to emulate them.
“I usually played with radio-operated toy trucks,” he laughs, “and I’d run them until they died. I was the kid outside pushing snow or dirt with one of my toys.”
It’s taken a while for Atkinson to circle back to his lifelong passion and newfound career. He spent 14 years as a diesel technician working on semi trucks and gasoline tankers- — a good career that taught him how to repair or diagnose just about any kind of mechanical or electrical issue, but he just didn’t see a path for growth.
Finally, to suit a deep-seeded desire to operate heavy equipment, Atkinson enrolled in Sun Prairie’s Diesel Truck Driver Training School where he earned a CDL license and learned to operate a number of machines, from skid loader to excavator to bulldozer to front-end loader.
His ambition was coming into focus.
Atkinson launched Bill’s Earth Services in 2016 and has been working in excavation ever since, but his main enjoyment comes from moving dirt. “It just speaks to me,” he admits, “but it’s probably more about the equipment.”
Operating heavy machinery requires a degree of respect for the machines because, like anything else, if used improperly, they can be dangerous, he notes.
Perhaps that’s also part of the appeal. Unlike the Tonka variety, these are not toys.
Atkinson’s favorite machine is a skid steer (or skid loader) because of its versatility in allowing an operator to do everything from prepping a driveway (so it’s ready to be poured) to stacking logs or boulders.
He took out a loan to purchase his skid steer from an acquaintance, and rents attachments and other heavy equipment as necessary to save on costs.