Lampson beating odds for family-owned businesses

They are the backbone of the American economy

When one approaches the Tri-Cities, it is impossible to ignore Lampson International’s monstrous cranes in its Pasco assembly yard. Those gantries stand out like the Space Needle in Seattle and reach more than 560 feet into the sky.

Like the Space Needle, Lampson is built on a solid footing. Last month, Construction Review Online (CRO) ranked Lampson as the world’s third largest crane company.

“Lampson International has been a world leader in the Heavy Lift and Transport industry for over 65 years. Initially started as a small drayage company, they have quickly grown into one of the most innovative and respected providers of equipment and full-service rigging services in the United States and abroad,” CRO stated.

It is a very innovative, family-owned manufacturer, which has defied the survivability odds. According to The Family Firm Institute, only about 30 percent of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation and fewer than 12 percent are still viable into the third generation.

As the third generations move into leadership, the company is well positioned for growth and success. Today, it has a fleet of hoists capable of lifts from 350 to 3,000 tons (U.S.).

It was started in 1946 by a hard-working, creative couple, Neil and Billie Jane Lampson. They began as a small crane and drayage company in the TriCities. Today, it is still family owned, with offices in Canada and Australia and about 300 employees worldwide.

Lampson’s drayage business was built around hauling and hoisting heavy loads on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

In 1978, Lampson engineered, manufactured, assembled and tested the first Transi-Lift for use at nuclear construction sites in the United States. It was to become the company’s signature product, just like Boeing’s heavy lifters – 747 and 777.

The Transi-Lift is a crawler (tracked) transporter on a mobile foundation and equipped with multi-drum hoists. It exceeded all expectations and could be described as a giant crane sitting on an army tank platform.

By the time the Lampson’s son, Bill, was named president and CEO in 1990, the company was building “megacranes” for large construction projects worldwide.

One of those projects is Seattle’s 45-story Hyatt Regency hotel, which was completed last year. The new hotel, featuring more than 1,200 guest rooms and 105,000 square feet of meeting and ballroom space, takes up three-quarters of a block.

Another is in the south Australian mining city of Port Pirie. Nyrstar, which mines and refines lead, zinc and other metals, rebuilt its 120-year-old smelter to reduce lead and other metal emissions. It was a $514 million project, which required Lampson to lift mammoth components from ships onto wheeled-ground crawlers and then hoist them into permanent positions.

Lampson is successful because it hires (and retains) dependable skilled workers – some of whom are second and third generation. It is innovative, and the cab of today’s company cranes looks like a fighter cockpit, complete with joysticks and modern high-tech panels.

Bill Lampson brought his son, Peter, and daughter, Kate, into the business – a smart move, considering only about 3 percent of all family businesses operate into the fourth generation.

Family-owned businesses are the backbone of the American economy. They account for 64 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, generate 62 percent of the country’s employment and account for 78 percent of all new job creation.

Texas A&M University took a look at the S&P 500 for a full business cycle, and found that family-owned businesses beat other firms in revenue and employment growth. Other researchers found they are less likely to lay off employees, regardless of financial performance.

Family-owned businesses are vital to America and their contributions should not be ignored.

Don Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, after over 25 years as its CEO and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at: TheBrunells@msn.com.

More in Opinion

State taxed with the challenge of keeping up with a robust economy

Gov. Inslee: ‘Our revenue system is designed for a Model T economy in an Internet Age’

Carbon fee hurts business and families | Brunell

Reduce pollution in our atmosphere without punishing workers and families

School is back in session, and KCLS is ready to help

It is fall and a busy time for teachers, students and parents.… Continue reading

Gov. Jay Inslee. REPORTER FILE PHOTO
He’s not on the ballot, but Inslee is campaigning like it

Republicans may find votes in making the election a referendum of the Democratic governor’s agenda

Avoiding trouble tweeting

Think hard before posting an angry, irresponsible or accusatory message

Living in an era when emotions, opinions outweigh facts

“In this era of post-truth politics, it’s easy to cherry-pick data and… Continue reading

What’s really going on at King County Solid Waste?

Deliberate misrepresentation of facts and opportunities?

Lampson beating odds for family-owned businesses

They are the backbone of the American economy

Move forward on water quality standards

In an unfortunate reversal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to… Continue reading

Even with postage paid, voters couldn’t send ballots on time

While those ballots don’t get counted, taxpayers still must pay the Postal Service for delivering them

Much needed dose of Yogi Berra’s wit and wisdom | Brunell

With today’s tension and rancor, we need a dose of Yogi Berra’s… Continue reading

Their I-940 made the ballot, but not the version they prefer

A much-divided state Supreme Court blew up an unusual compromise when it… Continue reading