Jim Hook , email@example.com Published 2:22 p.m. ET May 26, 2017
SHADY GROVE – The Manitowoc factory in Franklin County will officially welcome crawler crane production at 1 p.m. on Wednesday with a flag raising.
Manitowoc Co., a leading global maker of construction cranes, consolidated its U.S. manufacturing operations in August by moving its crawler crane operations from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to Shady Grove. The local plant previously made hydraulic cranes.
More than 80 experienced employees at Shady Grove have already been called back to work for extensive training on the crawler crane line.
“These are good jobs that pay family-supporting wages,” said Brian Smith, director of human resources in Shady Grove. “They require skills such as the ability to weld tubular, heavy plate, and high tensile steel. But we need to hire more than just welders, too.”
The first 300-ton capacity MLC300 crawler crane built in Shady Grove came off the line in February, and the first 650-ton capacity MLC650 crawler crane rolled off in March. While some Manitowoc brand crawler cranes have been assembled in Shady Grove for several years, preparing the plant for a full line of crawler cranes has been a major undertaking.
Smith sees a potential for adding jobs through 2018, depending on regulatory reform and infrastructure legislation along with the return of cyclical market demand. The heavy machinery industry has suffered through a historic downturn since 2012.
Since 2008, Manitowoc lost as many as many as 2,000 jobs partly because of market demand and legislative policy that created significant advantages for imported cranes. Since the company has never off-shored crane manufacturing jobs, Manitowoc plans to reverse these losses by rebuilding America’s infrastructure with American-built cranes made by American workers, according to Smith.
Over the past five months, as many as 10 trucks a day have been moving machines, materials, and parts from Manitowoc and Port Washington, Wisconsin, to Shady Grove.
Favorable winter weather allowed an aggressive schedule for, not only the equipment move, but also for the large-scale building modifications and hundreds of tons of concrete poured for foundations to accommodate large machining tools and automated welding equipment needed to produce crawler cranes. In just 16 weeks, an existing production building in Shady Grove was emptied and fortified to accommodate crawler crane production. The larger space allowed production to flow efficiently from assembly to paint to testing.
A 1947 Manitowoc brand SpeedCrane, an antique crawler crane recently moved from Wisconsin, is displayed at the front of the 303-acre campus. Two Grove mobile cranes flank the crawler crane on a 300-ton concrete pad. Together they symbolize the resiliency of crane manufacturing at Shady Grove and the past and future of Manitowoc, according to Smith.
If steps proposed by the current administration in Washington D.C. become law, it will also be a boon for the local economy, he said. An infrastructure bill, coupled with regulatory reform legislation, will allow the company to add good-paying manufacturing jobs and help grow the economy.
The details of the Trump infrastructure plan are unclear, but at least $200 billion is proposed to be spent in the next decade. Congress must weigh in.
Manitowoc, founded in 1902 in Manitowoc, separated its food service business from the crane business in early 2016. The standalone crane manufacturer had the freedom to restructure its business to meet the demands of the domestic and international crane market.
Manitowoc in 2002 acquired the Shady Grove campus, known as Grove Worldwide. The local company had its roots in a farm wagon business started by John and Dwight Grove and Wayne Nicarry in 1947.