In 1945 Leo Heikkinen opened a small machine shop southwest of Prentice, Wisconsin, to repair and fabricate farm, construction and logging equipment. Seeing the difficulty loggers had loading logs with mechanical truck-mounted winches, he put his ingenuity to work to improve the method. By 1956 he had developed the first hydraulic log loader and named his invention after the little village where it got its start. Heikkinen’s philosophy to “build it better than it needs to be” became the foundation for a complete line of forestry equipment built today with the same commitment to innovation, quality, durability and reliability.
The Heikkinen Machinery Company was incorporated as Prentice Hydraulics Inc. in 1959. As the company grew, the line expanded to include truck and trailer-mounted loaders and larger models to handle tree-length wood and large west coast timber. Demand spread beyond the Lake States region throughout the United States and Canada. Sales soared and by the late 1960s, over 1,500 Prentice machines were produced annually.
In 1967, Heikkinen sold Prentice Hydraulics to Omark Industries of Portland, Oregon. An additional factory was built in Zebulon, North Carolina in 1969. Omark was purchased by Blount Inc. in 1985. The Forestry Division of Blount was sold to Caterpillar Inc. in 2007.
Today, the Prentice brand is stronger than ever, with market-leading quality and durability. In 2006, the Prentice brand name was given to Hydro-Ax wheel feller-bunchers and Fabtek harvesting equipment, making the Prentice timber harvesting equipment line one of the most complete in the industry. In 2007, the Forestry Division of Blount (including the Prentice and CTR brands) was sold to Caterpillar Inc.