When Minnesota foreman Mike Lind was hired at NPL in June of 1979, Jim Loehr said he’d “give him a try.” Things must have worked out because now, 38 years later, Mike’s still here, and he is one of NPL’s longest-tenured employees.
Today Mike is the foreman of a crew dealing mostly in steel work, mains and stations, in the Twin Cities area, but he began with a shovel in his hand. One year out of high school, Mike started with NPL as a laborer on the only crew doing gas work in the small towns near Iron Range and Arrowhead in northern Minnesota. He remembers, “You spent the first half of the day digging holes, and then the second half filling them in. It was hard work, but good. It seemed like there were 50 other guys who wanted your job, so you had to work hard to keep it.”
When work in Minnesota slowed down during the bankruptcy years in the early 80s and many NPL guys left for the new work in Arizona, Mike stayed as one of only two laborers remaining on his crew. “There were only a few crews left, mostly in the city. We did anything and everything, working in any corner of the state. It took five or six hours one way to get to some of those places,” he remembers. After five years as a laborer, Mike became a fuser and later an operator. He eventually ended up a foreman running a replacement work crew in Iron Range for Dick Maple, NPL’s first employee.
Mike and crew work on a sleeving and recoating job for Viking Gas in 2009.
NPL has changed a lot, especially with the way technology has affected work. Mike recalls how “plowin’ in a service” in the early days was exactly that. The process involved digging a hole at the house where the service line would connect and then using a truck winch to pull back a plow blade that was welded to a beam or pipe. If the plow blade caught on a rock, it would either pop out or turn the truck sideways. As for road crossings, before the advent of directional drills that drastically reduced time and labor, his crew used a water bore gun. The water bore was like a large hand-held drill usually run by two people. Water was forced through the gun and through the center of the bits, and as the bits drilled into the soil, water came back out of the hole. “It would take a day to do a road crossing, and the whole time water was shooting back at you.”
The most striking change over the years is the seriousness of NPL’s commitments to safety and quality. “We were never unsafe, but back then you were lucky to get a cone for the job site. Now safety is a top priority and we have the PPE we need,” he says. “We’ve always done quality, because quality is the right thing to do.” It’s the pride in working for NPL that has kept Mike coming back to work. “The best thing about NPL is that the job is yours. You own it,” Mike says. “You can build it into something, and NPL helps you do it.”