In 1937, Griff Carlisle started his first business, G. Carlisle Hauling, while working at another full time job at a Newport, Kentucky, steel mill. Carlisle’s first job was hauling old railroad ties from the steel mill to Falmouth, Ky., which he sold for $6 a load.
Griff’s hauling business soon grew into a demolition and hauling business, then a crane rental business, then an excavation company, and finally into one of largest companies in the Midwest providing rental, sales, and service of cranes and heavy construction equipment. By 1958, Griff’s son, Wayne, began running and managing the business. Later on, Griff’s grandsons, Rob, Bryan, and Bert, got involved in running the business and helped grow it into one of nation’s largest crane and equipment rental businesses by the late 1990s.
In the middle of the Carlisle companies’ remarkable growth, Griff did something that would become a labor of love and would epitomize the company’s motto, “whatever it takes:” he bought a boat.
In 1966, a customer wanted Griff to do construction work on the Ohio River. While he had more than 30 years of experience providing construction work on land, Griff had never done any work on the Ohio River. But as always, he would find a way to satisfy his customer’s needs.
“My grandfather called a riverboat towing company and asked them to bring a tow boat up river to push a barge and the crane he had to where he needed to go,” said Rob Carlisle, Griff’s grandson and president of Carlisle & Bray Enterprises. “On the day it was supposed to happen, my grandfather waited all day for a tow boat that didn’t show up.”
After not getting a call from the company to explain what happened, Griff called the towing company, which told him that tow boat “got tied up.” “They told him that it would be there the next morning, but it didn’t come until much later in the day,” Rob said.
After the tow boat finally arrived, Griff loaded the crane onto the barge to ship to the job, then went to Tucker Marine, where he ordered a brand new tow boat, which he would name the Beverly Wayne after his daughter, Beverly, and his son, Wayne.
“Griff figured in order to provide service he promised to his customers, he would need full control of his own equipment,” Rob said.
That boat purchase was the genesis of Greater Cincinnati Marine and Griff’s lifelong love affair with the Ohio River. The boat he purchased in 1966 — the Beverly Wayne — continues to serve Carlisle and Bray Enterprises today as a tow boat in the company’s fleet operations in Patriot, Indiana, according to Rob. When Griff Carlisle died in 2000 at the age of 84, his son, Wayne, and his sons continued operation of the business.
In 1999, Boston-based Bain Capital approached the Carlisle family about selling their companies. Bain Capital’s primary focus was Carlisle’s crane and heavy equipment operations in Wilder, Ky. Bain wanted to acquire Carlisle Crane and Anthony Crane in Pittsburgh — two of the largest crane rental operations in the country — to create a corporation that would become the world’s largest crane rental company, known today as Maxim Crane Works.
In 2001, Maxim decided to sell off Greater Cincinnati Marine, which led the Carlisle family to reacquire the company.
When the acquisition was complete, the Carlisles had reacquired all of the equipment that it sold to Bain, which included eight tow boats, more than 50 barges, and multiple pieces of unloading equipment, construction equipment, and barge-mounted cranes. But most of all, the Carlisles saved the excellent team of employees that made Greater Cincinnati Marine what it was.