It was a beginning in humble accommodations infused with entrepreneurial spirit. Four decades ago, Jim Hunter launched MII Equipment Inc. in borrowed space, actually, a restroom converted to an office. “He loves to tell that story,” said Dean Johnson, MII Equipment executive vice president, of Hunter's tale of the business launch.
Hunter began the business as a manufacturer's representative to three primary products lines; national manufacturers of pallet jackets, ergonomic equipment and dock and protective equipment. “His vision at that time was to provide material handling, dock equipment, floor mounted safety products and ergonomic equipment to the industrial customers throughout the Midwest,” said the company's online history.
“As MII Equipment grew, it became evident that a broader line of products was needed to supply customers throughout the U.S.,” the site said. Bolstered by Hunter's entrepreneurial enthusiasm, MII later transformed to include stocking representative, and later, master distributor. In 2000, the company had the opportunity to establish its own brand and did so with the launch of Handle-It product lines replicating the three original lines the company served, according to Johnson.
MII president Hunter's background in business, engineering and material handling helped him create products that filled in the gaps in MII's line of products, the company history said.
Today, Handle-It is a global source of products, with stretch-wrap machines being a key area of growth, according to Johnson. MII operates out of Milwaukee with about 22 employees in a 22,000-square-foot warehousing and manufacturing facility, serving clients across the U.S. The majority of manufacturing takes place at locations in Wisconsin, China and India.
“Handle-Its' focus remains on offering a competitively priced, high-quality product to the market place,” the business website said. Products offered include: guard rails, rack protectors, post protectors, overhead door track guards, dock plates and boards, edge of dock levelers, pit levelers, scissor lifts, tilters, pallet trucks. In addition to the current line of products, the company said it continues to expand those lines and offer custom engineered solutions to customer's specific application needs.
The 40th anniversary of the business has received little fanfare at MII, where Johnson said the “nose to the grindstone” efforts of the work force are allowing the anniversary to fly by relatively unnoticed. “The most important milestones are the success of the business,” he added.
Looking ahead, company leaders are considering an expansion to include a California-based warehousing operation, to ease transport capabilities throughout the West Coast.
Impact protection equipment remains the key offering at MII. Johnson added that plastic impact equipment may offer future growth opportunities.
Building and maintaining relationships with customers is a pivotal component of MII's operation, according to Johnson, who said MII is known for its responsiveness and versatility in its assistance to clients. “Customer service is the focus of what we try to do,” he said.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit eileenmozinskischmidt.wordpress.com to contact Eileen.