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MN Company Celebrates Grove GMK7550 Purchase

Tue October 29, 2002 - Midwest Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Armstrong Crane & Rigging Inc., of New Brighton, MN, held an open house in early October to celebrate the arrival of Grove’s new GMK7550 all-terrain crane. This crane is the largest capacity and heaviest mobile crane ever shipped by the manufacturer. It also is the largest crane ever sold and delivered in the state of Minnesota.

Armstrong Crane & Rigging’s new crane boasts a 550-ton (499 t) lifting capacity and, with all of its components, weighs in at 530,000 lbs. or 26.5 tons (240,404 kg or 24 t). Maximum tip or lifting height of the crane is 410 ft (125 m).

The crane was delivered in late August by Hayden-Murphy Equipment Co., of Minneapolis, MN, the Grove dealer for Minnesota. The company then conducted two weeks of training while putting the 7550 into service.

Armstrong Crane & Rigging was founded in 1979 by three gentlemen who worked as crane operators and rigging foremen. Dan Gmach, president of Armstrong, was the first employee, he said. The company started with one 35-ton (32 t) truck crane, one tractor/lowboy and one forklift. It had a 12 ft. by 12 ft. office and barely enough yard space to park the equipment.

“We did all the field work ourselves, plus trying to procure new work between jobs. My duties consisted of oiling, operating, truck driving, mechanic and rigger. Basically, we did whatever it took to get the jobs done and maintain the equipment,” Gmach noted.

Armstrong grew slowly at first, according to Gmach, mostly due to the economy of the early 1980s. The type of work the company was doing consisted of manned crane rental, machinery moving, transformers, generators, breakers, etc. It hooked a few plant moves that really helped the company get through the hard times. “I think our reputation of providing service, with a hands-on approach from management was established from day one,” he said.

By the mid 1980s, with a half dozen pieces of equipment, Armstrong moved to a 5-acre (2 ha) location with a small office building and separate shop. In 1985, one of the original owners left the company to pursue other interests. The company continued to grow in the 1980s doing millwright work, steel erection and overhead crane fabrication and installation.

By 1990, Armstrong’s fleet had grown to 15 cranes, a few rough terrains and two 90-ton (82 t) Limas. A year later, the company purchased its first all-terrain, an 80-ton (72.5 t) Grove.

By 1995, another of the original owners retired and Gmach acquired his stock. “At this point, I felt we needed to re-focus our energy and resources on the type of work that we do best. That is manned crane service, heavy rigging and machinery moving on more of a regional scale,” he explained.

In 1997, the company started to move more into the all-terrain cranes up to 150 tons (136 t). “Their popularity and the work they could do was very impressive,” Gmach said.

By the next year, the last of the original owners wanted to retire so Gmach bought him out and brought in two partners: Troy Halverson and John Gmach, one of the original owners.

By the turn of the century, Armstrong’s fleet had grown to 30 cranes, 20 trucks for support equipment, a dozen forklifts and a lot of miscellaneous equipment. The crane fleet consists exclusively of Grove Cranes, who along with Hayden-Murphy Equipment, “have provided excellent support and service over the years,” Gmach said. The company now employs from 45 to 75 people depending on the work load.

Throughout the years, according to Gmach, the main theme or mission of the company has been the same. “The most important word in Crane and Rigging Service is ’Service.’ We give people what they want, when they want it with highly experienced and dedicated employees, at a fair price,” he said.

The addition of the Grove GMK7550 is a step in the right direction, Gmach said. “we have always called ourselves a full-service company…Over the years, I have seen a lot of jobs come through here that we could not handle with the equipment we have. I want my customers to know that when they call here, we have what it takes, and are willing to make the investment to provide it.

“This purchase is hard to justify in this economy, but as we see every day, lifts are getting heavier, reaches are getting longer, and I feel we need to be a player in this market. The GMK7550’s capabilities and mobility far exceed anything in the region. This should make us very competitive in this market,” he added.

Training, Gmach explained, is essential to the “day and age. The equipment is so sophisticated that you couldn’t do much anyway without specialized training.”

The company also rents out its equipment. “We do both types of rental, although manned rental makes up 90 percent of our rentals. The only machines that we rent bare are the rough terrains,” he said.

Besides the variety of areas the company covers, it also provides a 24-hour dispatch for emergencies. A big area for this service is in utilities, Gmach said. “We provide this not so much as a money maker, but as a service to help solidify these relationships.”

Hayden-Murphy Equipment, celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, was founded in 1957 by Hank Hayden and Chuck Murphy. In 1988, Len Kirk became a partner with Jim Lupient, who had owned the company since 1984. Today, the duo (Lupient Enterprises being one of the largest privately held corporations in Minnesota) are the sole owners of the corporation, although Lupient is not involved in the day-to-day business.

On the crane side of the company, Hayden-Murphy is a dealer for Manitowoc, Grove, Terex American crawler cranes and Kobelco cranes. On the dirt side, it represents Link-Belt, Terex, Gomaco, Dynapac, Fuchs, Rammer and Bell scraper tractors.

“At Hayden-Murphy, our corporate philosophy has always been to provide our many customers with quality products and superior service at competitive prices,” said Kirk.

“Our philosophy is proven by the multitudes of repeat customers that comprise Hayden-Murphy’s customer base,” he added.

For more information, call Armstrong at 888/638-8129 or Hayden-Murphy at 800/352-2757.

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