Stafford Crane Group dominates the Phoenix skylines amid construction boom

You only have to look up to see the changes coming to the valley.

Tower cranes are dotting the skyline, and there's one business that relocated to the valley, all the way from Europe, that's cashing in on the construction boom.

"He told his foreman, 'I got an operator for you.' He said, 'Show me.' He got the job, that's how it all started," said Jack Stafford of the Stafford Crane Group.

The Stafford Crane Group is the only tower crane builders in the country, and its international headquarters are right in Phoenix.

"It probably, typically takes four to five to six months to get the crane finished," Stafford said.

A tower crane is used on major construction projects around the world for lifting building materials from the surface to wherever it's needed.

A timelapse video provided by Stafford Tower Crane Group shows how a tower crane goes up one section at a time, hundreds of feet high. It's anchored by a concrete base and its long boom is balanced by a concrete counter weight at the back.

"We put up and down all of our own tower cranes," Stafford said.

Staffed Crane is run by the three Stafford brothers, Jack, Patrick and Derek, who moved their crane business from Ireland to Phoenix.

"The downturn came in Ireland and we had 49 cranes in Ireland. We had to move somewhere else in the world and this seemed as good a place as any," Stafford said.

Besides building new ones, the Staffords currently lease 30 cranes to different builders across the U.S. Fifteen of them are right here in the valley.

"Only in the last six months Phoenix has become the hot place where people want to build higher," Stafford said. "It's getting to the stage now where you could call it an explosion here in Phoenix because it's happening much quicker than it ever did before."

"It's one of our first multi-family projects on the west coast," Dan Carrillo said.

Carrillo is the Senior Superintendent for the Ryan Companies. One of their projects is on Central Avenue, just south of McDowell Road.

"A six story building. Two levels of concrete for parking, some offices and we hve four levels of multi-family units, 229 of them," Carrillo said.

They lease this tower crane from Stafford, which comes with a certified Stafford operator. And this is what it looks like from inside -- quite a view.

'The crane has been a real, real support apparatus to keep this project going," Carrillo said.

Operator Bill Book gave our SkyFox drone a wave as it hovered nearby. From a 100 feet high, Cook oversees everything below, and coordinates with a ground supervisor by radio.

The ground supervisor is typically in a colorful hard-hat so the crane operator can spot him.

"You will also hear him blowing a whistle. 'Hey there's a load ahead,' and that allows all the other workers on site, about a hundred other guys, to kep them aware that, 'Hey there's a load overheard, beware,'" Carrillo said.

A some jobs, a crane operator can work ten to twelve hours a day.

"He's probably picking up 200 to 300 loads a day depending on what's coming in," Carrillo said.

So without climbing up and down a 100 to 200 feet of steps, how does the crane operator go to the bathroom?

"It used to be in a bottle. But now, we hae a toilet. A whole lot better now," said Adrian Leddy, a crane operator.

Leddy started with Stafford Crane when they were still in Ireland.

"I worked on a cricket stadium. When the cricket games were on, we could sit in the crane and watch," Leddy said.

Newer Stafford cranes come with a bathroom installed inside the crane cabin. It wasn't always that easy.

"Take it down with you at the end of the day in a bag," Leddy said.

He showed Fox 10 around a newer tower crane cabin under construction and where the new incinerator toilet goes.

"That's where the incinerator sits," Carrillo said.

"A proper bathroom. You can sit down on a toilet and do what you need to do and it's incinerated so at the end of the day, the operator pushes a button and it incinerates whatever is in the toilet," Stafford said.

From building its own bathroom equipped cranes to running a school for crane operators, this is one Phoenix company with sky-high expectations.

"A lot fo work, a lot of risk, but we are happy and we love doing what we do," Stafford said.

It can be a risky profession. Since 2000, there have been 668 tower crane related deaths worldwide. Severe weather caused roughly ten percent of them, according to a study done by