Alta Equipment Company
- Written by: Jeanee Dudley
- Produced by: Ian Nichols
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
In 1984 Steve Greenawalt bought a lift truck dealership in metro Detroit that employed 40 people and represented the Yale Materials Handling product line on the eastside of Michigan. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Alta Equipment Company (Alta) expanded, covering the entire state of Michigan for Yale lift trucks, and eventually diversified into other industrial products, such as specialty lift trucks and warehouse solutions.
In 2010, Alta expanded further into new territories and markets with several acquisitions in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. With the purchase of Wolverine Tractor and Equipment, the Volvo construction equipment dealer in Michigan, Alta broke into the heavy construction equipment market catering to all contractors in Michigan.
Much has changed over the last 30 years. Steve’s sons, Ryan and Darrin Greenawalt, are now involved in the family business, serving as executive vice president and vice president of sales and marketing, respectively.
“We grew up in this industry,” Ryan explains, “But we both worked in other industries before returning to the Midwest to join our father. I came back in 2008 after working in financial services, and Darrin returned in 2009 after working in advertising sales.”
Now, the brothers join their dad in pushing Alta along in a period of rapid growth. “We take great pride in our ability to retain customers through all of our growth and acquisitions,” Ryan explains. “We haven’t seen a lot of customer attrition. More importantly, we have been able to retain great talent. We employ about 600 people, and we know the greatest asset we take on through our acquisitions is experienced staff. We have a great management team, and we would not be able to achieve the growth and integration we have without them.”
Alta operates out of 18 locations across the Midwest, including Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. Four of the company’s Michigan branches are heavy equipment facilities serving the construction market. These locations showcase the company’s broad portfolio of industrial and construction machinery, which continues to grow. The selection includes forklifts, earthmoving machines, paving equipment, cranes and material handling equipment among other products.
“Volvo is the heart of our construction product line,” Ryan notes. “It’s our flagship brand. We sell a wide range of Volvo construction equipment from small, compact machinery all the way up to large excavators and articulated haulers. Other brands we represent include Link-Belt cranes, Sennebogan materials handlers, Gomaco concrete pavers and several others.”
Ryan considers Volvo equipment to be the best made products, as far as heavy equipment goes. “Volvo is premium to Caterpillar and priced competitively,” he explains. “Our flagship brand offers better value. You are looking at a similar initial price point, but the operating cost is much lower. The machines are more fuel efficient and the component life is longer. We have real growth with that product line, expanding by 300 percent over the last two years with Volvo alone.”
The Alta team is always looking to take on new specialty products, as long as new lines do not dilute the company’s flagship Volvo line. Alta recently adopted KPI-JCI aggregate crushing and screening equipment under the Aztec brand. “This will allow us to better serve aggregate producers and paving companies,” says Ryan. “This is a niche market with a lot of potential customers. We have the most complete paving solution of anyone in the industry. Our Volvo asphalt pavers serve the highway, mainline and commercial sectors. We also have compaction and milling equipment, as well as Gamaco concrete pavers and curb cutters.”
“The past winter was pretty rough especially in the northern Midwest,” he continues. “We are here to help rebuild worn infrastructure. We have a line called Dura-Patcher, which are asphalt maintenance machines that have grown significantly on the sales and rental side. Another segment that is growing is scrap and demolition machinery. Michigan has some of largest demolition contractors in the country. To serve that market segment, we are positioned with three lines. Volvo has specialized products just for that industry. We also carry Genesis shears and hydraulic attachments to process beams and scrap. Our products from Sennebogan serve the same market.”
To continue serving these diverse industries, Alta is in a state of perpetual growth via acquisition. While the Midwest seemed to lead the way through the recession with the fall of manufacturing and the automotive industry, the region is also leading the recovery. “We are coming back strong,” Ryan says of Detroit and the surrounding regions. “There is a lot of potential here and we are really excited about the opportunities ahead.”
As Alta takes on new assets, the priority now is to develop synergies between the various segments of the business. Ryan predicts a trend of consolidation in the equipment industry and his team is leading the way. With new opportunities around every corner, Alta Equipment Company has a strong future in the Midwest construction industry.
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