Community Focus and Customer Commitment
Allstates Rigging – a woman-owned, turnkey rigging contractor based in Two Rivers, Wisconsin – is in expansion mode. The firm’s skills include forklift operations, plant relocation, and machinery transportation, and it recently acquired a machining facility to augment its services. As befitting the company name, Allstates works with clients across the USA.
“Since I’ve been with the company, there are not many states we haven’t had some sort of reach in, whether we’ve gone as a whole team [or sent individuals]. Our longest project might have been three or four months in California,” states President and Owner Sam Grage.
At present, forklift services – in which it supplies clients with both a forklift and someone trained to use the machine to lift or move goods – are the company’s central focus and leading revenue-generator. “We do not rent our forklifts or our equipment. Our services include an operator or operators. We are a rigging company that will provide forklift services that include an operator,” explains Grage.
Its forklift fleet can be fitted with fork attachments, booms, or jibs, depending on the nature of the assignment. Forklifts “range from 3,000-pound capacity all the way up to an 80,000-pound-capacity forklift,” says Chief Sales and Project Estimator Sheldon Ruttner.
Plant relocation and machinery transportation round out the services. Plant relocation entails moving a company’s assets, be it desks, files, or equipment. Machinery transportation is a component of plant relocation, and Allstates can move single machines from one building to another on the same street or transport multiple machines across the country on trailer trucks using its motor carrier authority.
Allstates complements its plant relocation and machinery transportation work with value-added services. Upon request, it can shrink wrap and palletize a company’s assets or machinery to lessen the possibility of damage during long moves. The company’s welders, riggers, and mechanics can also perform millwright and maintenance duties. This might involve reconnecting or disconnecting cables and equipment at a client’s workplace or manufacturing guarding to further ensure that cargo is moved safely.
The company’s manufacturing abilities were greatly enhanced when it acquired a local firm called KNM Machining and Industrial Maintenance last February. This custom job shop is based a few minutes away from where Allstates is located. Grage has been spending a great deal of time at KNM as of late, working hard to “marry the cultures,” and blend the two companies’ policies, handbooks, and procedures.
Beyond its wide range of services, Allstates differentiates itself from the competition through experience, “the longevity of employees, and the desire and the culture to constantly improve and find better and safer ways to move company assets,” continues Grage. The company always puts the customer first, she adds but it will partner with other companies “to get the job done,” if need be.
Right now, its main clients are found in the metal manufacturing, plastics, and wood sectors, including wood panel manufacturers. The company is always open to moving into new markets, however. “One [sector] we’ve kind of gotten into in the last two years is the installation and relocation of medical equipment such as CT scans and MRI machines,” says Grage.
Throughout the years, Allstates has taken on all manner of intriguing jobs. It has moved delicate sculptures into the Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center and recently transported an inactive 155mm howitzer cannon from Two Rivers, Wisconsin to Red Arrow Park in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
Everything is managed from company headquarters in Two Rivers, in Manitowoc County. The company operates a 175,000-square-foot building, which includes warehouse space, and a 150,000-square-foot outside yard to store equipment, generators, and other gear. Thanks to technology and hard-working staff, Allstates has not “had any need for a satellite office or other locations,” reports Grage.
The firm was founded in 1992 with the same focus as today. In 2016, Grage purchased stock and became a minority owner and vice president. A year later, the other shareholders decided to retire, and she became president and sole owner.
Grage, who served in the United States Air Force doing trucking and forklift operations for warehouse facilities, says it “wasn’t intimidating,” as a woman to take on the job of running Allstates. While some of the company’s old-time riggers might have been a bit taken aback, they quickly adjusted.
“I would say within six months they figured out that my approach was that I respected their talent and experience, and they learned that I had the talent and experience to lead them. We take a team approach. I’m no better or different than anyone who works here. We all pull on the same end of the rope,” says Grage.
Right now, Allstates has thirty-one employees. Another twenty-two people currently work at KNM. For anyone looking for a job, experience is appreciated but not necessary. “When I interview people, they may not have any experience in the industry, but if they have the passion and drive for customer service and are quality-minded and safety-minded, that’s very important to us, as is a willingness to learn,” she explains.
For all that, finding new staff is the biggest challenge facing the company, she says. A combination of a strong economy and a lack of young people entering skilled trades across the country means there can be “more work and jobs then there are people in the workforce or people looking for work.” Every business owner she speaks with also cites workforce shortages as one of their main challenges.
People who are hired receive extensive safety training, the intensity of which depends on what position they are entering. “Our policies are explained and signed by every employee, then reiterated on a weekly and sometimes, depending on the job site, a daily basis. There are discussions, meetings, toolbox talks. These are documented and maintained for OSHA review if need be,” states Grage.
Safety procedures include a thorough discussion and a review of the risks and variables in any given job. If there is a dip in the floor at a job site or an incline, staff discuss the best way to address the issue to keep everyone safe. If an incident occurs that is out of the company’s control, staff will hold a review and possibly tweak existing safety procedures. Allstates also holds an internal safety awards program, which recognizes workers who stepped up with safety suggestions or took measures to make things safer for themselves and their colleagues.
Getting the word out about the company and its services is handled both online with social media profiles to post updates about company activities and in a more old-fashioned manner. While technological platforms are helpful, “word of mouth and the company’s reputation,” have been instrumental when it comes to bringing in referrals, she adds.
Membership in industry groups also enhances Allstates’ profile and offers the company opportunities to network. It belongs to the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC) and the Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association (SC&RA).
Community involvement has also been vital. In addition to moving the cannon to a local park, Allstates is involved in a venture called Night Market 920. The market offers a gathering place for food vendors, craft tables, and the public on summer evenings along the Manitowoc Riverfront. The event is designed to raise funds for local affordable food initiatives.
“It’s a fun night for the team to get together. We’re guest beer tenders. It’s team bonding. We have fun with it, meet people in the community, make new relationships,” says Grage.
This community focus extends to the company’s business model. When Grage came on board, she noticed that management tended to emphasize difficult, far-flung jobs that often entailed sending multiple vehicles across the country.
While retaining Allstates nationwide reach, Grage decided it was also important to help companies based a little closer to home. “I said, we have so many industries here in Manitowoc County, let’s start here and get involved,” she recalls.
Allstates has earned recognition for its community focus. In February 2019, The Chamber of Manitowoc County bestowed its 2018 ‘Small Business of the Year’ award on Allstates Rigging. The award acknowledges firms that demonstrate innovation, growth, success, and community involvement.
As for the future, Grage has big plans. Her immediate priority is to get KNM working in sync with Allstates, so the companies can complement each other’s services. Once that happens, she envisions rapid growth over the next few years. “We have a goal to double our gross revenue,” states Grage. “I’m also looking to add ten to twelve jobs in the next two years and marry the companies together.”