Bushnell (June 13, 1921 – November 14, 2020) founded Genie in 1966, launching his first material lifting device, which operated on compressed air, from a small warehouse in Seattle. Customers referred to the hissing noise the lift made as “Genie magic in a bottle,” which ultimately led to the company’s name. A lifelong inventor and tinkerer, Bushnell was talking with customers at a trade show when inspiration struck again. The customer suggested that by putting a platform between three Genie Hoist material lifts, it could lift not just material, but a person. Bushnell got to work, and the result was the Genie Teletower. In 1974, Genie introduced the Superlift, which relied on another Bushnell invention, a nesting aluminum mast section that proved to be a key innovation for other material lifts that followed.
Bushnell was inducted into the AEM Hall of Fame at AEM’s Annual Conference in Napa, California, and the honor was accepted by Genie President Simon Meester.
“I am proud and humbled to have been able to accept this honor on behalf of Bud and the Bushnell family,” Meester said. “Bud, with the Genie Hoist, fundamentally changed the way that people work at height and helped launch an industry. But beyond that, he established a culture at Genie that is rooted in a commitment to our customers, and to teamwork and respect. That foundation is still a big part of who Genie is today.”
Through his inventions, Bushnell did not just make work at height easier, he also made it safer.
“Bud was driven to continue to improve safety in the industry. First asking, ‘How can we improve material handling?’ Then, ‘How can we put people in the air safely?’ If it wasn’t for Bud’s imagination and his drive for innovation, Genie wouldn’t be what it is today,” said Scott Owyen, Genie Director of Training, who has been with the company for 39 years. “The highest priority in everything Bud designed was safety, and helping people work safely at height is still the most important thing Genie and its equipment do today.”
From the early days, Genie employees were called “team members,” reflecting a management style and a culture focused on collaboration and respect. Keith Vanderhart, who started his career with Genie in 1976 and is now a Senior Buyer at Genie, had an opportunity to work side-by-side with Bushnell early in his career. He recalled not only Bushnell's commitment to Genie customers and safety, but to the Genie team as well.
“It was always such a pleasure to work with Bud. He was honest, he was kind, and he wanted things done right and built safely. He left a wonderful DNA at Genie that has allowed us to move forward, and do the same things,” Vanderhart said. “There isn’t anyone more deserving of this honor than Bud Bushnell.”
In the 1980s, Bushnell turned over company leadership to Bob Wilkerson, Roger Brown, and his son, Ward Bushnell. Genie continued to grow as an innovative, customer- and culture-centric enterprise, and the company continued to invest in new product development. The Z-30/20, an early articulating, self-propelled aerial work platform, was introduced in 1984, and Genie’s first electric boom lift followed in 1985. Today, more than 70 percent of the current Genie product line is electric or hybrid, and Genie lifts and telehandlers can be found on jobsites around the world.
“Bud left an incredible legacy at Genie,” Meester said. “Leading by example, putting the customer first, and focusing on the team to make it happen made us the company we are over the last 55 years. We have a lot of exciting products coming our way in the next 10 years, and Bud’s spirit is in all of them.”
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