21.12.2004

Jim Williamson heads Home

Many regular readers will know Jim Williamson, the New Zealand born engineer who has worked in the European crane and access industry for 25 years. Today he heads back to New Zealand to seek new challenges.

Jim Williamson arrived in Europe some 25 years ago having left his family’s transport business in Te Puke New Zealand to seek his fortune as a crane and truck engineer. His first role was with Grove in Oxford shortly after the Grove-Allen name was dropped in favour of Grove cranes ltd.. Serving initially as a product manager liaising between marketing and engineering he then moved on to Grove's National Crane group in the UK, engineering the chassis modifications required to mount the large telescopic boomed cranes onto UK commercial trucks. This venture was incidentally not successful, it soon became clear that European truck chassis simply have different characteristics to the big American rigs. Williamson met a local girl and whisked her back to New Zealand to get married and settle down. Whether his move to Europe was to get into the crane business or simply to find an English girl was never clear!

After a year or two in New Zealand the couple moved back to the UK and Williamson joined the Manhandler team, a rough terrain access platform that had evolved and moved on from the Dumper based lifts that were popular at the time.

From there he moved to Butterly cranes, and then on to Simon at Thetford, where as an engineer he was responsible for the design of several large diesel scissor lifts. From Simon he moved to a spell with Phil Allen at Powertech at that time the UK dealer for Versalift; It was this experience that provided the introduction to his most successful period so far, with Versalift. After the failure of Powertech, The owners of Versalift took the decision to establish a wholly owned subsidiary in the UK, its first company store and recruited his colleague Tony Coleman to set it up, he then recruited Williamson.
Jim Williamson in 1980s


It was just over 10 years or so ago that Tony Coleman, who retires from Versalift this month, and Jim Williamson teamed up to establish Versalift UK. Even the location of their offices and later plant in Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire was chosen as it was halfway between the two founder’s homes.
A view of Versalift UK in Burton Latimer which Williamson helped create


Since that start Versalift has grown to become the clear market leader in the UK/Ireland van mounted lift sector. The Burton Latimer factory, which is already one of, if not “The” most impressive aerial lift production facility in the UK or Ireland is currently going through an expansion process in order to cope with the increasing demand for Versalift products in the UK.

While Coleman looked after the commercial side and became managing director, Williamson looked after the operations, including engineering and production.
Versalift UK, Burton Latimer


Earlier this year, following a divorce after 22 years of marriage. Jim Williamson decided that if he was ever to return to his native New Zealand, then this was the best time to do it. So today he flies back to Te Puke from where he will be looking for a new challenge. As he says “hopefully in the crane or access industries, but if not then maybe its time for something completely new” We wish him every success in whatever he takes on.

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