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William Kent Inc.

February 28, 2018 - 3:18pm
posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Geneseeans of the Year, William Kent Inc., Chamber Awards.


This is the third in a series of five stories about the honorees at this Saturday's annual Chamber of Commerce Awards Ceremony. The ceremony is being held at the Quality Inn & Suites in Batavia.

Renowned purebred cattle auctioneer William “Bill” Kent says there’s a straightforward explanation for his Town of Stafford company’s nearly half a century of success.

“It’s pretty simple, really. I said to the kids, 'don’t fib and don’t do anything wrong, or it will come back to bite you,' ” said Bill, who founded William Kent Inc. in 1970 and has since turned it over to his son, Dave.

Bill, Dave and Dave’s son, Josh, spoke about the business and its role in the community in light of the family being named Geneseeans of the Year for 2017 by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s a heck of an honor, and certainly unexpected,” said Dave, who joined forces with his father in 1976 after graduating from St. Bonaventure University. “We’re very pleased.”

Over the years, several members of the Kent family have participated in the auctioneering, appraisal and real estate brokerage firm, including Bill’s wife, Jean, and daughters, Debbie and Connie.

Currently, Bill (at 85 he’s still on the job), Dave and Josh, who came into the business in 2006 after attending Cornell University, handle the day-to-day responsibilities, with assistance from trusted employees Mike Cody and George Heins.

The family was nominated for the award by Stafford neighbors Rick and Jane Scott, who said the Kents are “well known for their community spirit, love of agriculture and generous nature. They deserve to be recognized not only as a business but for all they do in this community and beyond.”

The Kents have displayed their generosity through the numerous benefit auctions they conduct (at no charge) for civic organizations and charities, rarely turning down a request.

“Dad has always done this, and it is one of the ways we can give back,” said Dave, a former New York State Auctioneer of the Year.

In 1971, Bill gave of his time and talent to run the first Genesee County Fair auction, and the company has been involved ever since.

“Kids raise and sell their 4-H project animals at the Fair, and we help them out,” Bill said, adding that they also participate in the Wyoming County 4-H.

He then went on to name other organizations that have raised funds through their benefit auctions – churches, Kiwanis Club, Batavia Business Women, Le Roy and Stafford historical societies, Salvation Army and Hunter’s Hope, Spirits & Skivvies underwear project, plus many more.

Josh, whose children, Landon, 10, and Ainsley, 7, could be destined to join the business someday, said he has embraced his grandfather’s philosophy.

“Western New York is a fairly tight-knit community, and to be in business for any length of time, you have to treat people right,” he said.

Bill said the business has changed over time – “we used to sell 5,000 cows per year, now it’s a lot of machinery and real estate auctions and sales” (and consulting) – but they’re available to “help out where we are needed.”

That was the case when Bill presented auctioneering for a “show and tell” session at the Le Roy Nursery School, where his grandson, Riley, was a student.

“That was more fun than making money,” he said, with a laugh.

“I asked the kids to just do what I do, counting 1, 2, right up to 10. Then I gave them the little microphone and asked each one to come up and count. One little girl was so shy; she hid behind me, clutched my leg and counted really softly. That was something.”

Photo: David Kent, Josh Kent, and Mike Cody.

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