Manitowoc Corp. started Manitex as a maquiladora operating out of McAllen, TX and Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico in the late 1980s in order to build pedestal cranes supporting the offshore oil industry. Manitowoc had elected to start a new company, rather than integrate it into the Wisconsin facility, mainly because pedestal cranes are designed and manufactured in accordance with different codes from those used for commercial crawler cranes. The Texas/Mexico border site was chosen because most of the sales activity occurred on the Gulf Coast, and a maquiladora operation provided labor savings.
Shortly after entering the business, the oil industry cratered, and Manitex was staring at zero business, according to Scott Rolston, general manager. Needing a new product, the management team selected boom trucks as a vehicle to get to market relatively quickly. The engineering group designed the Manitex 1161, which was at the time the highest-capacity boom truck on a single rear axle.
The company moved to Georgetown in May 2003 because the cost savings associated with labor were not enough to make up for the logistical difficulties of operating two plants and attracting talent to the Valley area of Texas and Mexico.
By the mid 1990s, the boom truck operation was doing well. In November 1998 Manitowoc acquired USTC in York, PA and melded it into the Manitowoc operation. In December 1999, Manitowoc acquired Pioneer, which was based in Olathe, KS. By September 2000, the USTC and Pioneer locations were shut and the entire boom truck operation was consolidated to Texas.
Until 2000, Manitex operated under the Manitowoc umbrella but was not a part of the Manitowoc Crane Group. In November 2000 a Manitowoc reorganization resulted in the company being renamed Manitowoc Boom Trucks, and it was moved under the control of Manitowoc Crane Group.
Shortly after the reorganization, Manitowoc acquired Grove, a purchase that included the National brand of boom trucks. The management team in place decided to sell the Texas division, and that transaction was completed in December 2002 when the company was sold to a private equity fund called Quantum Value Management. The company's name and product was changed back to Manitex. Just last summer, Quantum Value Management merged with Veri-Tek. At the end of last year the Veri-Tek acquired Canada-based Liftking.