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Nutting celebrates 125 years

Elijah Nutting would likely be amazed by the modern world his business now operates in.

The businessman founded his company in 1891 after designing a tilt-style platform truck to fulfill the material handling needs of a fellow Minnesota businessman.

It was an era of horse-drawn carriages and kerosene lamps. Benjamin Harrison was president and, according to the U.S. Census, a half-gallon of milk cost just under 14 cents.

Now, 125 years later, Nutting's company is still in motion and his name graces a series of material handling products in the firm.

“We are really proud of the fact that we have been around for 125 years,” said Darla Becking, sales engineer for Nutting, part of Acco Material Handling Solutions.

“To me, that says a lot about the Nutting products.”

“There's so many material handling manufacturers that have come and gone over the years, to be one of the original U.S.-made material handling manufacturing companies is a great feeling,” Becking said.

The company specializes in solutions for material handling, including trailers, carts, order picking platforms and allied products, according to the business website. Along with Nutting products, Acco also supplies hosts, cranes, lifters and patented track in their Pennsylvania and Alabama facilities.

Products are available ready-to-ship or are engineered to meet customer specifications, with the customized offerings making up the lion's share of the company's sales.

In 1984, the original Nutting business moved from Minnesota to South Dakota, where Becking said business tax rates were more favorable. The operation continues to be housed in Watertown, in the far eastern region of the state.

Investment firm KKR & Co. LP owns the Crosby Group LLC, and Acco falls under this umbrella.

The approximately $1 billion purchase of Crosby and Acco by KKR was announced in late 2013. Both companies specialize in the design, manufacture and marketing of accessories used in lifting and rigging, according to a Law360 report.

A statement released by KKR at the time of the acquisition announcement reported Crosby has more than 1,300 employees and Acco has 130.

While Pennsylvania-based Acco is the legal company name of the material handling company, the Nutting name is still used on the material handling products, Becking said. Those include: warehouse and industrial trailers, order picking platforms, hybrid trailers, pivot steer trailers, towline carts and specialized trailers and carts.

The branch morphed from Nutting's original business and located in South Dakota employs 28 workers who create products for customers across the U.S.

“For us, 90 percent of our products are custom-made,” Becking said. “We will make products to our customer specifications from application to the design, to the manufacturing, to shipping and customer service.”

Workers specialize in various departments to provide an array of services from steel fabrication to welding to paint and final assembly.

“We're there from the start to the finish of the product and we're there afterward to service after the sale,” Becking said.

Tougher economic conditions in 2001 and 2009 proved challenging for the company, but Becking said Nutting had some advantage due to the specialized nature of the company's products.

Many of Nutting's customers that suffered setbacks during the recession are now bouncing back.

“We have seen an increase in warehousing and distribution along with manufacturing,” Becking said.

As the business marks its 125th year, Becking said it will move forward continuing an approach of looking for the next project and new challenge.

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 or visit to contact Eileen.