Hoffman Industrial is in the business of moving things.

It’s fitting, then, that the company is continuing to move forward, even with a 171-year tradition in Erie.

Hoffman was founded in 1846 by using horses to move houses. As manufacturing rapidly advanced in the industrial age, however, the company leveraged its rigging and moving skills and moved into machinery. Today, Hoffman Industrial – the oldest rigging and machinery moving company in the United States – no longer moves houses, instead focusing on the specialty skills of moving heavy and hulking pieces of machinery with a deliberate and even delicate touch.

President and owner Art Hammond, who bought the westside Erie business about three and a half years ago, is focused on ensuring that his company is the best at what it does, and that it has a strong – and satisfied – customer base to prove it.

He’s working to build that base by promoting the advantages of Hoffman Industrial – emphasizing that Hoffman workers have the equipment, the experience and the proper insurance to safely move big machinery.

It’s dangerous work, he points out, and it’s not for amateurs. There are angles and math calculations to figure out, and new circumstances with every job. “There’s so much to worry about,” Hammond says. “You have to have patience.”

Hoffman Industrial has further been investing in its equipment and in its employees – making sure workers have necessary training and skills – and has touted that experience in efforts to increase business.

Hammond has added some advertising and is working to expand the marketing and online reach – “We realize that even with a niche business like rigging and machinery moving, an online presence is essential for growth,” he says – and he’s also making sure his employees know of the company’s efforts.

A sign in the employee breakroom spells out the company’s philosophy fairly clearly: “Hoffman Industrial Co. will only employ and promote people who support and satisfy customers.” And upstairs, in a small office, a list hanging on the wall keeps a running tally of new businesses added so far this year – more than a dozen to date.

With so much activity, it’s clear that this moving business is not content to stand still.

About Hoffman Industrial: The company, with 11 workers, has a mix of seasoned and younger employees. Hoffman sends younger workers out for training and certification, since the rigging work is dangerous, and a strong skillset is imperative to employee safety. The company serves businesses in about a 250-mile radius of Erie, largely focusing on manufacturing but also serving other industries, including health care. Here in Erie County, Hoffman is the approved primary rigging company for GE Transportation.

Why Erie County: Hammond sees a lot of positives in Erie County, including its livability. He also says that Erie County still has a strong manufacturing presence – which is essential for businesses like his. When manufacturing is robust, he says, manufacturers “do a lot with their money. They invest in new machines.” And when that happens, Hoffman Industrial is there to move out the old machines and move in the new ones.

Challenges of Erie County: Hammond does, however, say that it is vital that Erie County shore up its manufacturing sector to help stave off future decline. “We have to grow the manufacturing base so that ancillary businesses like us grow. Anything that hurts manufacturing hurts us,” he says. In addition, Hammond would like to see a greater effort from Erie County companies in supporting local businesses. “Nothing irks me worse than an Erie company hiring an out-of-Erie company,” he says.

Fun fact: Hammond is only the second owner of the company to have come from outside the Hoffman family.

Address: 1510 Irwin Drive, Erie, PA 16505 or www.hoffmanindustrial.com