Jeff Baker describes his entry into the crane business as “accidental,” but in a way he was following the age-old path to business success—find a need and offer services to fill that need.
“I needed a crane for a project, but I couldn’t find anyone locally to provide one, so I bought one,” Baker said. He purchased his first crane, a 26-year-old Bucyrus-Erie truck crane, in 1994. Soon, other companies around Zanesville were asking him to provide crane services, and his welding business became a welding and crane service company. “I just kept buying newer and bigger cranes as the years went on.”
In March 2015, Baker’s Welding & Crane Service took delivery of a Link-Belt ATC-3210 210-ton all-terrain crane, the first of this new Link-Belt design to be delivered in Ohio. Baker purchased the ATC-3210 to replace a 1996 model Grove 5120, and ”There is no comparison between the two,” he said. The Link-Belt can be set up more easily and quickly than competitive models. The ATC-3210 also makes good time on the highway. The Link-Belt is far superior in convenience and ease of use both on and off the road, he added. Baker is using the 210-ton crane for work including setting modular houses, cell towers, box culverts and bridge beams.
“I really like Link-Belt machines,” Baker commented. ”Link-Belts are more user-friendly for the operators.” For instance, he noted, operators must stop competitive machines in a certain position when they want to get out, whereas they can stop the Link-Belt in any position and still safely exit the cab and reach the ground.
Baker has 18 cranes, ranging in size from a 3.5-ton carry deck up to the new 3210. The fleet includes a 1999 Link-Belt 8640 truck crane and a 2007 Link-Belt 8675 truck crane. ”Link-Belts are dependable machines. We don’t have issues with them,” he noted.
”Link-Belt and Columbus Equipment are a good fit,” Baker said. ”Dealer support is important for someone as small as we are, and the service we get from Columbus Equipment is unbelievable. We have no mechanics so we depend on them, and they have always been here for us. They are outstanding every day. They have always done a super job with parts, service and sales.“
Baker has been a Columbus Equipment customer for about 15 years, and he purchased several Grove cranes through the company when it sold that brand. He is slowly but happily transitioning his fleet to Link-Belt, which he prefers over other brands. Lead Operator Jason Tom is also a believer and big fan of Link-Belt’s Pulse operating system, which keeps him ahead of the curve in terms of optimal, precise and, most importantly, safe operation.
When Baker decided to update his large all-terrain crane, his first inclination was to buy used. However, after looking at the used market, ”It was a no-brainer to get a new one. People wanted 75 percent of the [new] price for a machine with 20,000 hours,” Baker said.
“Jeff put a lot of consideration into the purchase,” said Bob Weber, head of Columbus Equipment’s Lifting Division. “The ATC-3210 can be permitted and moved easily in Ohio because of its weight and weight distribution, and the ease of movement and teardown were important factors.”
”The largest crane the company previously owned was a 120-ton, so this was a big step in the growth of the company. We are glad to know he has had the 210-ton crane out on numerous jobs and it appears to be a very healthy fit for his business,” Weber added.
Baker started his welding business in 1984 after working in welding shops for about five years. Currently, his business is split about evenly between welding and crane work. His welders work on projects such as structural steel for hotels and do job shop work, and the crane operators perform contract work for a variety of customers, including many building contractors.
Baker’s Welding & Crane Service employs 13 people, and Baker is quick to give them credit for the company’s success. ”I have a bunch of great employees who work with me, not for me,” he said. ”We had a rough three years [during the recession], like everyone in the country, but now the outlook is good and we have a fair amount of work.”
Buying the new Link-Belt was an investment in the future. ”You have to keep growing to stay in the race,” he said, and the 3210 will allow the company to do that. Baker’s son, Levi, has worked alongside him for years and has always aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps and Baker knows the new Link-Belt will serve the family-owned business for a long time to come.
Baker is quick to point out his obvious appreciation to the company’s customer base—some of whom he has worked with for 30 years—in making all this possible. Being committed to those you serve and investing wisely are tried-and-tested business strategies, just like finding a need and filling it. With a highly-productive Link-Belt crane and dependable support from Columbus Equipment, Baker’s investment in the ATC-3210 looks promising for years to come.