Alta Equipment Company Acquires Elite Heavy Equipment Services, Expands into Illinois
Michigan-based Volvo CE dealership Alta Equipment Company has expanded into Illinois, after being named the manufacturer’s exclusive dealer for the northern and central parts of the state. Alta – headquartered in Livonia, MI – has also bolstered its package of customer support services through the recent acquisition of Elite Heavy Equipment Services, LLC, a leading heavy equipment service company in the Illinois market. Alta now operates Elite’s Spring Grove, IL facility, and has retained all Elite service technicians.
“I am excited about this opportunity because of Alta’s commitment to customer satisfaction and growth in the Illinois market,” says Mike Dahlen, former owner of Elite and now Alta’s Vice-President for its Illinois operations. “I appreciate the loyalty of our customers and pledge to continue to provide the same level of service that they have grown to expect.”
“Elite was well known in the Illinois construction market for hiring the best technicians and providing outstanding customer service,” adds Ryan Greenawalt, CEO of Alta. “This acquisition will jump start our ability to service our construction customers and position Alta as the service leader in the Illinois market.”
Expansion Follows Success and Growth in Michigan
Alta Equipment was founded in 1984 as primarily a lift truck dealer with a single location in Detroit, and has now grown to 22 locations throughout Michigan, Illinois and northwest Indiana. The construction equipment operation was named the authorized Michigan dealer of Volvo CE products in 2009, as an independent dealer replacing the previous, corporate-owned dealership in the state.
“We’ve had great success in Michigan, against two really mature companies,” states Alta Construction Equipment President Rob Chiles. “We were relatively unknown, but by differentiating ourselves and offering a strong value proposition, we have been able to grow tenfold since we started.”
In addition to its flagship Volvo CE line, Alta represents a wide range of brands, including Link-Belt cranes, Sennebogen material handlers, Genesis shears, Genie aerial equipment, and Gomaco concrete paving products. (Products represented by Alta’s lift truck sister company include Yale and Hyster® lift trucks, Manitou, and Combilift).
Chiles says his interest in the Illinois territory dates back many years. “Our goal has been to be a world-class dealership through the Midwest. We perceived the Illinois market as very similar to Michigan, regarding the industry, the contractors, etc., but with 30 to 40 percent more population. We felt that we could succeed there, based on our growth in Michigan; plus, our sister company had expanded into Illinois several years ago, which had helped us become more familiar with the market.”
A good example of the company’s commitment to the new territory is its expanding fleet of service vehicles. Dahlen reports that Alta has doubled the number of service trucks he had in operation in Elite’s territory, with more on order. “Between Michigan and Illinois, we’ll have over 100 service trucks on the construction side,” he states.
Alta and Elite Share Business Philosophy and Commitment to Customers
Mike Dahlen says starting Elite Heavy Equipment Service in 2008 came out of necessity. “I was laid off during the economic downturn from a dealer where I was a field mechanic,” he relates. “Many of my customers told me that I should start my own business and said they would utilize me. Within six months, I had a number of those loyal customers who did what they said, supported me, and gave me a lot of jobs. So, I hired my first technician and bought another truck. Ten years later, I had 20 service trucks and 24 employees.”
Chiles says that when he first met Dahlen, he felt that their two companies would be a good fit – although Dahlen did not necessarily need Alta Equipment. “We agreed on a lot of things, but Mike vetted our company extensively, to make sure we had same ideals and culture and customer-centric philosophy that his organization was founded on. I told him that Alta was not a traditional dealer, that our formulas are created by our customers, not our OEMs or managers. For us, it’s all about the customer’s will, not ours.”
Dahlen admits, “Originally, I told him thanks but no thanks. I wasn’t necessarily looking to sell my business – I’d had offers in the past and wasn’t particularly interested. Plus, I had concerns about some issues related to the former Volvo dealer. But Rob was persistent, and as we developed a relationship, I started to see and believe that here was a company that had the same values that I set in place at Elite.”
Dahlen says his decision was made easier as he learned more about Alta’s business philosophy and its commitment to becoming a partner with customers, not just a vendor. “This is exactly what Elite was focused on,” he states. “That’s why I’m here today, excited to be a part of Alta and honored to be in my new position.
“I wrote a chapter of life I was very proud of, and now I’m super excited about writing the next chapter. I’m looking forward to going after the market very aggressively and becoming an even bigger partner with those customers who traditionally were partners with Elite. Now we have even more to offer them.”
Chiles echoes the sentiment: “We’re very excited about the Illinois market, really energized as an organization. We feel the competitive landscape couldn’t be better for us. It’s not about the name recognition of the OEMs that might be perceived as being at the top. No one will be providing the complete solutions that Alta can bring to the market.”