NPL Moves Southwest

NPL started working in the Southwest during the early 1980s. It wasn’t gas work, though. It was TV cable. In 1980, NPL had declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and was scraping by on bid jobs (that’s a story for another post) when a former employee reached out to Noel Coon with an opportunity in a new region. Wayne Torgerson, NPL’s second employee, had left NPL a few years earlier to start his own company. When Torgerson needed to subcontract bore work for TV cable in Arizona, he thought of his old employer, and Coon jumped at the chance to get NPL closer to solvency.

Meanwhile in Minnesota, a foreman named Mark Wambach (currently NPL’s president) knew that work in the North was going to be scarce. Faced with the decision to move to Pennsylvania for midstream work or move to Phoenix for cable TV work, he chose to load up a 12-speed truck and backhoe for the long haul to Phoenix. Shortly into the trip, Wambach, who had brought his wife to help with the drive, discovered that the brakes on the trailer were bad. They rented a garage, fixed the brakes and then drove straight through, arriving two days later. This was the birth of NPL’s Southwestern division. While Wambach and crew were primarily doing bore work for cable that didn’t require much more than a truck, an air compressor and a hole hawg, the goal was to get on Arizona Public Service’s (APS) bid list and back into gas work. It was slow going at first, with Wambach oftentimes buying fuel with his own credit card to keep crews working, but the business grew. Finally in 1984, NPL got its first blanket contract with APS for new residential construction. Three years later, NPL’s Central Office moved to Phoenix.

The images below show some of NPL’s early work with APS.