When establishing a construction business in rural Iowa, there are a couple of certainties. First, the company will need to be flexible enough to either take on a broad range of work or travel long distances for jobs to remain profitable. Second, there will most definitely be a heavy dose of agriculture related projects.
Located in north central Iowa’s Webster City, Peterson Construction has thrived and grown over the past five-plus decades, infrequently traveling beyond a market area where most communities are no larger than 50,000 people. The company successfully adapts to market needs, building wastewater plants, commercial buildings, pools, steam tunnels and libraries. “The construction market goes in cycles, and we go to where the work is and do what needs to be done,” said Senior Vice President of Peterson Construction Joel Peterson.
However, it is the agricultural industry that has been the bread and butter for this third-generation family-owned business. A farm project was the reason behind its first hydraulic crane purchase in the 1970s. “It was an 18 ton crane,” said Peterson. “We were building a hog confinement facility and needed it for concrete placement.”
As the company grew over the years, so too has its need for larger and higher capacity cranes. It currently owns a 30 ton (27 t) capacity Terex RT 230 rough-terrain crane and a 60 ton (54 t) class Terex HC 60 lattice boom crawler crane, among other models.
Most recently, Peterson Construction had the need and opportunity to step up in crane size and purchased a Terex RT 670-1 rough terrain crane. Again, the acquisition was based on projects related to the agricultural industry, and this time it was for a fellow Webster City company that mirrors the same beginning and growth pattern as Peterson Construction.
A Step Up
Peterson Construction and Van Diest Supply Company both trace their beginnings to the mid-1950s and are third-generation family businesses. Van Diest has experienced significant growth distributing and processing agriculture chemicals for some of the top names in the business. This growth has dictated the need for significant expansion of the infrastructure of this rural Iowa business.
Peterson Construction is the primary contractor working to build the infrastructure required to store Van Diest’s product. “We act as the general contractor, and we have a good relationship with the company and family,” said Peterson. “We are currently constructing Building 46 at the Webster City location.”
The pre-engineered steel buildings range in sizes reaching 63,000 sq. ft. (5,853 m2) and house tanks with capacities ranging from 25,000 to 50,000 gal. (94,635 to 1.89 million L). With the agricultural market expanding over the past few years, Peterson Construction’s crews have been busy trying to keep pace with the additional construction at Van Diest’s Iowa complex using a 40 ton (36 t) capacity rough terrain crane.
The company worked with Rob Bonnstetter — central Iowa field sales manager of RTL Equipment, an authorized Terex Cranes distributor — to recommend a new crane that would better fit Peterson Construction’s needs. “They had outgrown the 40 ton capacity crane that they were using to efficiently construct the steel buildings,” said Bonnstetter. “They required a crane in at least the 60 ton class that would give them the capacity to work at a longer radius.”
Bonnstetter showed Peterson Construction the 70 ton (64 t) capacity Terex RT 670-1 rough-terrain crane from its rental fleet. “It had been ’gently used,’ so we were able to get a price that allowed us to jump up to a 70 ton capacity crane,” said Peterson. “A rough-terrain crane sits at the job site throughout the duration of a project, so you have to justify the purchase. We wouldn’t have been able to do this with a brand new machine, but RTL took care of us by showing us the rental unit.”
Peterson Construction took delivery of the RT 670-1 crane at the end of May and immediately put it to work on the Building 46 project. It worked the opposite side of the building from the company’s Terex HC 60 crawler crane. Two additional Terex rough-terrain cranes, the RT 555 and RT 230 were used to help construct the tanks and pipe bridge structure that connects the buildings for product transfer.
It didn’t take long for Peterson to see the vast difference offered by the RT 670-1 rough-terrain crane. “We don’t have to keep resetting the crane nearly as much, making us more efficient with lifts,” said Peterson.
Most of the lifting for the RT 670-1 crane is pretty straight forward. It consists of picking and setting the building’s beams, columns, rafters and walls, as well as positioning the tanks. Additionally, the crane must set 15,000 lb. (6.804 t) chillers and 8- by 8- by 8-ft. (2.4 by 2.4 by 2.4 m) pieces of process equipment. “We easily have more than 200 lifts with the rough-terrain crane for each building,” mentions Peterson.
With the 40 ton capacity crane, Peterson Construction’s operator worked at a 50 to 60 ft. (15.2 to 18.2 m) radius for the building component lifts, which meant moving and setting the machine multiple times. Taking advantage of the RT 670-1 crane’s 111 ft. (33.8 m) hydraulically extendible boom, capable of extending under load, and additional capacity, Peterson Construction is now making daily building picks at greater than an 80 ft. (24.4 m) radius.
“We have already picked an object at 90 feet out, and we are setting up fewer times each day,” said Joel Peterson. Bonnstetter added, “The RT 670-1 crane offers more than twice the lift capacity of the 40 ton crane at these longer working radii.”
Peterson knew that he was getting a higher capacity machine in the Terex rough-terrain crane, but he didn’t fully appreciate the crane’s capabilities before taking delivery. “You just don’t realize how much of a difference the extra capacity makes until you get it out in the field,” he said. “It makes me happy we made the investment in the additional capacity of the RT 670-1 crane.”
Making the operator happy are the creature comforts and simple crane operation. “I grew up around construction and crane equipment, and there used to be a physical element operating these machines,” he added. “With the RT670-1 crane, there is none of that involved. The joystick controls are user friendly, and the crane is very simple to operate. It makes the operator more efficient.”
When it is necessary to reposition the crane, its design helps to make the moves more efficient. The RT 670-1 crane is compact, and three steering modes allow it to nimbly maneuver around congested construction sites. A six-speed powershift transmission with four-wheel drive enables the rough terrain crane to navigate extremely challenging terrain.
All of these features have combined to help Peterson Construction get more productivity from its crane and crews. “With the RT 670-1 crane investment, our ultimate goal is to build faster, so we can erect structures in less time,” said Peterson. So far, it is turning out to be a wise investment.