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Rapidly Growing Northland Crane Service Supports Multiple Industries Around Minnesota

by: Debra Wood
Northland Crane lifts the top off a water tower.
Northland Crane lifts the top off a water tower.
Northland Crane lifts prefabricated units into a multifamily project.
Northland Crane lifts prefabricated units into a multifamily project.
Northland Crane Service, from Princeton, Minnesota, lifts materials into a multifamily project.
Northland Crane Service, from Princeton, Minnesota, lifts materials into a multifamily project.
Erik Peterson, Owner of Northland Crane Service
Erik Peterson, Owner of Northland Crane Service
Northland Crane lifts materials.
Northland Crane lifts materials.
Northland Crane lifts materials for a project.
Northland Crane lifts materials for a project.
Crews move a scissor lift into place.
Crews move a scissor lift into place.
In just a few years, Erik Peterson has grown Minnesota-based Northland Crane Service from the ground up, from one to six cranes, including two new National 55L cranes from Aspen Equipment.

“We can lift anything that needs to be lifted, from setting roof trusses to HVAC units to hot tubs and signs,” says Erik Peterson, Owner of Northland Crane Service in Princeton, Minnesota. “You name it, we lift it.”

Founded in 2014, Northland Crane serves contractors and other businesses in Minnesota and five surrounding states. Peterson began working as a crane operator for his father’s home and commercial building company, Northland Builders, that same year. He learned on the job and gained important equipment and management skills.

“My dad decided to sell the crane, so I either had to buy the crane and start a crane service for framers or go get a job,” Peterson said. “I chose the crane service route.”

And he has no regrets. Peterson has grown the company to become a successful crane operation for a multitude of industries and a heavy equipment transporter, representing about 20 percent of the company’s revenue.

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“In 2015, we hired our first employee,” Peterson recalls. “In 2016, we expanded into tree services. Two years later, we had four cranes operating, one semi and six employees.”

By 2020, Northland Crane was operating six cranes, two semitrucks and employing 10 people: six crane operators – including crane operator D.J. Bloom, who has worked at Northland Crane for many years – and Jeff, Gregg, Tristan, Tanner and Joe; two transport drivers, Dave and Chris; and Mary works in the office, handling billing and taking transport calls. Peterson serves as a float operator, when needed, in addition to managing the company, which also offers hauling services.

A Hard Working Fleet
Peterson, being a sharp businessman, recognizes deploying the right equipment on a job can make his life easier and the work progress smoother.

Northland Crane’s fleet includes two National NBT 55L (55-ton) cranes, three National 45-ton cranes, and one National 30-ton crane, all from Aspen Equipment in Bloomington, Minnesota.

“I started working with Erik when he was coming in with his National 900 crane,” says Aaron Carlson, Director of Sales for Aspen Equipment Co. “He was working with Northland Builders back in 2013. Since then, he has steadily grown into one of Aspen's biggest rental customers.”

Aspen Equipment, founded in 1926, services and offers new and pre-owned sales and rentals of construction trucks and equipment.

“Aspen is great and Kent (Kuelbs) and Aaron (Carlson) have been wonderful to us,” Peterson says. “If we have a crane that is broken down, they have another for us to swap out. If not, they will get one from a different branch. It keeps the down time down and our customers happy.”

Aspen has built a reputation for its product support. Its factory-trained service technicians provide service and repairs in four locations: Minneapolis; the Quad Cities and Des Moines, Iowa; and Omaha, Nebraska. The company’s inventory includes millions of dollars in original equipment parts, ensuring warranty coverage, and aftermarket products to ensure it has the parts that meet the specifications for the equipment it sells and rents.

Versatile Machines
National Crane has been manufacturing truck-mounted hydraulic cranes for more than four decades. The cranes offer exceptional reach and are easy to set up and compact. Aspen keeps abreast of new options as they become available.

“Aspen keeps me up to date if there are new cranes coming out,” Peterson said. “This 55L is a new model with 151 feet of boom. I like these 55Ls. They are a good versatile machine. National is the Cadillac of cranes.”

The National 55L has integrated machine control; a Load Moment Indicator, the first in the boom truck market, according to National; and an outrigger beam position sensing system. It also features an air conditioned and heated operator’s cab with a sliding skylight and tilting capabilities; a wind speed indicator; a joist and side-view camera system; electric wipers and on-board diagnostics, which is helpful when service is needed. The 55-ton crane also offers multiple counterweight configurations, which are hydraulically removable and can be stored on the front outrigger box when driving the crane to or from a jobsite. Those two National 55L cranes are largest in Northland Crane’s fleet. The company also operates several smaller cranes, with telescopic main booms and 360-degree rotation capability.

“With a fleet of National cranes in different sizes, Northland Crane can match the right crane to the job, which saves the customer time and money, from the 30-ton National 1300 to the new 55-ton National NBT55151 and everything in-between,” Carlson says. “This also allows Northland Crane to perform smaller jobs with lighter picks to the bigger jobs that the new NBT55151 can handle. Northland Crane realizes that by using National cranes, the company is using one of the best cranes on the market for reliability, stability, and control.”

Serving All Industries
Peterson reports that at least in part, his customer service, quality completion of every job, and an attitude of “doing whatever it takes to get the job done” has driven the company’s success. Much of the company’s business comes from referrals by satisfied customers.

Northland Crane serves a number of industries. Peterson said he branched out to different markets as a way of staying busy. The company now assists in removing multiple sizes of large trees on residential properties to commercial hauling needs. It aids in steel erection, moving hot tubs, and removing boxes of debris. Some jobs are one time only, like lifting an HVAC unit into place, while other work requires regular lifting.

Peterson hopes to acquire an even larger crane as the business continues to expand. “It’s growing, and I cannot complain,” Peterson says. “The future looks promising.”

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