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Vt.’s Classen’s Crane Service Evades Economic Slowdown

Fri July 03, 2009 - Northeast Edition
Jennifer Hetrick

Mike Classen, founder of Classen’s Crane Service, Waterford, Vt., is a busy guy. In fact, he’s working so hard these days that he can honestly say, “To tell you the truth, if I did not listen to the news each night I wouldn’t know that New England is dealing with an economic slow down. Our business has remained quite strong.”

Classen founded the business in 1993 and runs it with his son Ben, daughter Meredith and 15 employees, expanding that number accordingly during peak construction season. Ben started working in the family business while he was still in high school, taking a short time off while attending college. After graduation in 2001, Ben returned to the business full-time. Classen worked in the construction industry before founding the company, and he and his crew have extensive experience in industrial, commercial and residential construction, including the rigging for steel erection, timber frames, log homes, modular homes, precast concrete, trusses, towers and other specialty jobs of all sizes.

Some of the larger projects Classen’s has completed include installing a robotic gantry crane for General Electric Aviation and rigging a 50-ton (45 t) transformer for TransCanada. Classen’s also operates a tree service that offers tree care, pruning, and cabling and tree limb and stump removal.

Although based in New England, Classen’s works all up and down the east coast, including the construction of 21 homes at Block Island (just outside Rhode Island) and a 40,000 sq ft (3,716 sq m) post-and-beam project in Augusta, Ga., a construction method in which Classen’s has built up quite a reputation, giving them as many as 40 projects a year.

The Right Stuff

Keeping up with that much work requires good equipment and Classen has come to rely on Woods CRW Corp, headquartered in Williston, Vt., for the many cranes he needs. Woods CRW is the authorized dealer in New York and New England for Link Belt, National Crane, Shuttlelift, and Tadano Cranes and Classen has a long-standing relationship there.

The company currently owns six cranes ranging in size from 16 to 90 tons (14.5 to 81.6 t). Additional cranes are rented as needed.

All of their cranes are purchased from and serviced and maintained by Woods CRW.

“We purchased our first boom truck from Woods CRW in 1994. It was the first of ten purchases to follow. We have developed a loyalty to Woods CRW for several reasons; strong pricing and excellent service are not the least of these. In our business we are on the job all hours of the day, seven days a week, and more than once Woods CRW has jumped through hoops for us to keep us running. When necessary, even on a Sunday,” Classen explained.

Forging a Link-(Belt)

Two of Classen’s more recent purchases from Woods CRW are a Link-Belt HTC 8690 90-ton crane with 207 ft. (63 m) of reach and an HTC 8665 65-ton (59 t) crane.

Classen’s Crane Service recently had the 8690 at the University of Vermont medical facilities doing the steel erection for the new Jeffords Science Building. The job involved setting 500 tons (453.5 t) of steel for the construction of the 90,000-sq. ft. (8,361 sq m) building.

Classen’s Crane Service started setting the steel on Dec. 1, 2008, and completed the job in mid-March.

Classen feels confident that the newly purchased Link-Belt cranes from Woods CRW “expanded our capacities, which has been and is continuing to be very beneficial to Classen’s Crane Service. Our new 90-ton Link Belt, for example, came equipped with a greaseless boom. There are Teflon pucks in the boom that eliminate the need for greasing. It’s also 8-ft. 6-in. wide, which allows us to travel holidays, nights and weekends without special permitting. We stay loyal to the Link-Belt brand for several reasons. For starters, their lift capacities consistently exceed comparable models of other crane manufacturers. And the reliability of the cranes is crucial because we often work in the northern parts of New England in the dead of winter and we are operating in well below zero temperatures, at times as cold as minus-20 degrees. In these harsh conditions the Link Belts continue to be very reliable. We do take a few special measures such as engine block heaters and magnetic heaters to heat the hydraulic fluid,” Classen commented.

The loyalty that Classen’s has to Woods CRW and Link-Belt also benefits its customers.

“The crane needs of our customers are constantly changing. We are regularly turning in cranes to Woods CRW to trade for new ones that better fit the applications that our customers are looking for. This type of flexibility has allowed us to stay ahead of the curve as far as crane work is concerned. One of the many reasons we continue to use Woods CRW and the Link Belt crane is that as our needs change Link Belt and Woods CRW are always able to accommodate them,” Classen stated. CEG

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