Wagner-Smith Equipment Co. sells, rents, and maintains new, used, and reconditioned conductor-stringing equipment, plus related supplies and accessories including stringing blocks, grips, hoists, hot arms, pumps, and presses. Complementing the equipment line is a complete product line of lineman tools and accessories. The Company has full service facilities in Texas, Oregon, Georgia, and Ohio, as well as a manufacturing facility in Illinois.
Wagner-Smith's origins go back to 1917, when The Charles M. Kelso Company was incorporated in Ohio. The company got into powerline work when, in 1919, Milton H. Wagner left his position as transmission engineer for The Dayton Power and Light Company and joined Kelso. With this move, Wagner established The Charles M. Kelso Company as an electrical contractor, specializing in powerlines.
In 1920 John E. Smith joined the Company and expanded the electrical contracting operations into the commercial, industrial, and institutional market. In 1928 the company name was changed to The Kelso-Wagner Company, and then in 1946, following Kelso's death, it became The Wagner-Smith Company.
In 1965 the business expanded into 345 kV steel tower transmission line projects, constructing more than 500 miles of line over the next several years. Then came the 1970s and the decision to drop out of utility powerline construction.
What is now Wagner-Smith Equipment Co. was started to fulfill the industry needs for rental of specialized line construction equipment. According to Phil Wagner (and yes, he's the grandson of Milton Wagner), "When we phased out of utility line construction work, we made a commitment to our customers - who used to be our competitors - that we wouldn't go back into that business." That part of the business came to prominence in 1982 when Vice President, James Pace, formerly with another major manufacturer of tension stringing equipment, joined The Wagner-Smith Company and opened a facility in Fort Worth, Texas. In 1990 the Fort Worth operation was moved to a much larger (30,000 sq ft) facility a few miles south in Burleson, Texas, to accommodate the increased business activity and provide facilities for manufacturing conductor-stringing equipment. Then in 2001, manufacturing was moved to a state-of-the-art 27,000 sq ft facility in Lawrenceville, Illinois.
Wagner-Smith Equipment's manufacturing operation was the direct result of customer needs. Knowing what people want, having precise designs, and building a culture of safety are all important facets of the business.
More than 85 years after the Company was founded, Wagner-Smith Equipment Co. has served customers in all 50 states and in foreign countries including England, France, Venezuela, and Mexico. Even with an international clientele, the Company's forte is personal service - a feature that frequently startles (and occasionally irritates) new customers, according to Pace.
"We sometimes make people mad because we ask a lot of questions, but we don't just go by what they initially say they want."
"This is a dangerous business. If you use the wrong equipment, somebody can get hurt. We have to ask about job criteria, such as, say, are they pulling parallel to an energized?"
Wagner agreed, "We try to find out exactly what the customer is trying to accomplish. This enables us to offer optional equipment, which may make for a safer, more efficient operation. We have a wide variety of pullers and tensioners, many of which have different features that make them more effective in specific applications. Our personnel have many years of experience with this type of equipment and are well suited to assist in the selection process ... there are lots of methods for accomplishing projects."
They were once powerline contractors themselves, as such, Wagner-Smith Equipment Co. understands the special needs of contractors, particularly in the rental market. Pace explained, "Like the contractors, we work best under pressure. If a contractor gets an award on Friday, the utility often expects them to start Monday...that's just the way it is. And since you don't place an equipment order until you get the contract, you need a company that can react and go with those needs ... like Wagner-Smith [Equipment Co]." What is more, he added, "There are different methods in different parts of the country; We get a pretty good feel for what works."
Customers have reacted to the Company's personal service and quality products by passing the word along amongst themselves. As James Pace told us, "A lot of our business comes from utility company and contractor referrals. Our customers are our best advertisers."
Wagner-Smith Equipment Co. Today
2000 marked a new era for Wagner-Smith Equipment Co., when the company was sold to an MDU Resources Group company. The sale opened new avenues for the business to continue growth and expansion in the U.S. and international markets. The first step towards expansion was merging HighLine Equipment into Wagner-Smith Equipment Co. HighLine. A Portland, Oregon, based distributor of lineman tools and equipment, they fit perfectly with Wagner-Smith Equipment’s rentals and sales, thus creating a larger customer base for both companies. HighLine Equipment now operates as a division of Wagner-Smith Equipment Co.
Lineman Tools & Equipment, Repair & Testing
Just to name a few, Wagner-Smith Equipment Co. carries products from companies such as Burndy, Huskie Tools, Buckingham, Bashlin, Anderson, Ridgid, Kellems®, Klein®, Alcoa, Little Mule®, Dillon®, A.B. Chance, Hastings, Coffing®, Samson® Rope, Wellington Rope, Puget Sound Ropes, Condux®, Cooper Tools, Greenlee, Fairmont, Salisbury, GMP, Jameson, and Everly Everground®. Factory authorized tool repair and glove testing is available.