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October 2017
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Towlift celebrates 50 years

When the employees and families of Towlift Inc. gathered at Ohio amusement park Cedar Point this summer, bystanders likely wouldn’t have guessed that the hundreds of yellow shirts the group donned for the event were connected to a company that had started half a century early with just a handful of people.

But the material handling business, which started as a Towmotor dealership in 1965, now boasts over 300 employees and eight physical locations. And although Towlift has expanded and diversified over its five decades, the business continues to operate under family leadership and remains tightly connected to its Ohio roots.

Towlift President, David Cannon, went through the history at their 50th anniversary party. Matt Adams, General Manager and third generation of the family leadership, finished with some inspiring words for the future. “We’ve come such a long way since the beginning and all because of the wonderful people that work here” said Cannon.

Towlift has four locations under the original company name. Headquartered in Cleveland, the business has full service operations in Columbus and Toledo, along with a parts and service operation in Mentor, Ohio. Affiliate companies include: Forklifts of Toledo, B&B Forklift, Wilson Barrett Battery Power Systems and Ohio Warehouse.

All of the Towlift locations carry Cat Lift Trucks, Kalmar, Hoist and the Trackmobile rail car mover lines. Racking and warehouse supplies and equipment are also offered, and some of the company locations carry the Linde, Jungheinrich® and Mitsubishi Forklift lines.

“It goes beyond just selling the equipment,” explains Cannon. “Our emphasis is customer care...providing customers with the right product and the right after-market support.” This support required a large investment into parts inventory, over the road service vans, a large fleet of rental equipment, customer service staff and a highly skilled team of service technicians.

As the business has grown, its lines have expanded, and the equipment has become more sophisticated, making it imperative that Towlift technicians stay abreast of developments and learn the different product lines through annual training. “Our technicians are one of our greatest assets”, emphasizes Cannon, and so Towlift has a dedicated training staff and is a factory authorized regional training center for technical training.

 Now in its third generation of family leadership, there is a sense of pride throughout the staff over being continually owned and operated by the same family. “It’s personal. Employees  know we have a stake in (the business) and we care about it,”  says Cannon.

A lot of other dealerships have been bought out by factories in the material handling business, but to Cannon, the family leadership of Towlift indicates the company is solidly rooted. “To me it says, ‘we’re here for the long haul” he said. “All our investments are made for the long term best interests of our customers, our associates, our suppliers and our shareholders.”

The family leadership translates to a commitment to the community as well – Towlift continues to look for ways to be involved in the Ohio communities and southern Michigan counties where it operates.

The business has worked continually with local charities and offers forklift operator training courses to unemployed veterans. In recent years, Towlift made equipment donations to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Mid-Ohio, Lorain and Cleveland Food banks, and Cherry Street Mission in Toledo.

Asked whether the next fifty years will bring additional expansion and efforts to diversify, Cannon was confident. Absolutely,” he said. “There has been so much change and consolidation; I don’t think we’re ever done with change.”

Eileen Schmidt is a freelance writer and journalist based in the Greater Milwaukee area. She has written for print and online publications for the past 12 years. Email editorial@mhwmag.com or visit eileenmozinskischmidt.wordpress.com to contact Eileen.
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