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Big Joe forklift brand undergoes renewal

Wednesday, 13 May 2009 ( #410 ) - Lonbard, IL, United States
News Story
Some of the Big Joe range
Equity fund Granite Creek Partners LLC of Chicago, Illinois and forklift manufacturer E-P Equipment Co Ltd of Hangzhou, China are giving new life to the Big Joe brand.

Granite Creek and E-P have formed a joint venture, Big Lift LLC, and acquired most of the assets of Big Joe Manufacturing Co from a Boston, Massachusetts office of retail bank RBS Citizens, a unit of Edinburgh, Scotland-based Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc. Terms were not disclosed.

Management says that "the new owners bring strong financial backing, resident industry knowledge and manufacturing expertise" to continue the Big Joe line.

The bank foreclosed on Big Joe Manufacturing and solicited offers for Big Joe’s assets through Argus Consultants, according to Mike Barry, a member of the Granite Creek team now serving on an interim basis as president of Big Lift with offices in Lombard.

"We will continue most lines" of Big Joe products, perpetuate the well-known brand identity and take advantage of Big Joe’s 57-year legacy for making rugged heavy-gauge and custom-fabricated forklifts, Barry says. "Those two things kept Big Joe around for so long."

Barry says the new owners will invest to retool and upgrade the existing Big Joe line, introduce new walkie-stacker and pallet truck models and incorporate some E-P advanced technology into Big Joe products.

E-P manufactures some forklifts under private labels for other original equipment manufacturers in North America and has sought to boost market presence for its E-P brand in North America.

"We are bringing back production folks—so far 15 or 16—as we restart the (Big Joe) factory" in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, Barry indicates. The leased Wisconsin Dells location for fabrication, welding and assembly has "been in demise for a while."

In late February, Big Joe Manufacturing opted to close another assembly operation and a national parts distribution centre in Madison, Wisconsin that opened in 2004. The new owners do not plan to reopen that site.

While in operation, Big Joe had more than 80 employees.

"Our new owners are entirely focused on delivering on-time, high-quality, rugged products that sell-through and make dealers money," says Tom Beatty, Big Lift operations director.

Among those joining Big Lift is Kevin Pletch, who was Big Joe dealer sales manager. Barry indicates that the Big Joe network includes more than 100 distributors.

John He, president of E-P group, observes that "this team will ensure that Big Joe products are made to the rugged standards that users have come to expect of Big Joe lift trucks".

In 2006, Big Joe Manufacturing, then based in Des Plaines, Illinois, introduced electronic power steering on a Power-Drive counterbalanced series of forklifts ( News #288).
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