William Milton Swanston Sr. founded what would become the Swanston Equipment Companies in 1930 when he opened a vehicle repair and painting shop in downtown Fargo. Seventeen years later, the business became the area's Nash automobile dealer. Also in 1947, the company began its involvement in the construction industry, when Swanston was appointed the distributor of Galion motor graders for North Dakota and western Minnesota.
The business took on the Swanston Equipment Companies name in 1955 to better reflect its emphasis on providing heavy equipment to the construction industry.
The Swanston Equipment Companies of today began its real growth and development in the late 1950s under the leadership of William "Bill" Swanston Jr., who stepped in to manage the company in 1958 when his father was killed in an automobile accident. The younger Swanston, who still serves as CEO of the company, acquired new product lines that helped define its future.
Those new lines and products included Blaw-Knox paving equipment, Boeing asphalt plants, Etnyre oil distributors, Rex concrete plants and Gomaco slipform paving products.
Swanston also acquired a small local company called Melroe Bobcat, which set the stage for greater offerings and opportunities with Bobcat down the road.
In 1969, Swanston expanded business to include a subsidiary company specializing in highway pavement marking. That division soon became a multi-state contractor handling paint, epoxy and thermoplastic applications. Thanks to a strong management team, the company garnered projects throughout the continental United States and into Alaska and is still an industry leader today.
In the early 1980s, the company was appointed a represent Husky Oil for asphalt oil sales in the Dakotas and Montana.
In the mid-1980s, Swanston Equipment Companies secured rights to distribute Ingersoll-Rand construction products in North Dakota and western Minnesota. Ingersoll-Rand's compaction, milling and air products were a perfect fit for Swanston, complementing their existing equipment lines, and that initial association with Ingersoll-Rand was a hint of bigger things to come as Ingersoll-Rand would later acquire Bobcat, Blaw-Knox and Clubcar, products that Swanston carries to this day.
Swanston added a new location in Minot, ND in 1994 to better serve its growing customer base in western North Dakota and then in 2004, the company got the opportunity to build a new facility in Fargo, ND because of a highway construction project's impact on the location they had been in for 49 years.