NPL’s First Big Break

NPL’s first big break came in 1968 with Lake Superior District Power Company. Before starting NPL in 1967, Noel Coon had met the vice president of LSDPC, Vince Beacom, in a chance encounter on a jobsite. (It was Coon’s MIG welding that caught the vp’s attention.) Hoping that Beacom would remember him now as NPL was trying to get a foothold in the industry, Coon called to ask if he could submit a bid for LSDPC’s annual blanket contract for mains and services. When Beacom reluctantly agreed to meet, Coon drove through the night to be at Beacom’s office 300 miles away when it opened the next morning. There, he met with Beacom and two of LSDPC’s toughest inspectors. Because Coon had no experience as a contractor, Beacom warned that NPL’s work would be inspected extra closely. Just as Coon was about to admit a mistake in bidding for the contract in the first place, he looked Beacom in the eye and said, “I don’t care how many inspectors you put out there. I’m going to do the work right. And, by God, I can do it!” Beacom sat back in his chair with a smile and replied, “That’s what I wanted to hear.”

NPL began to make a name for itself with that first blanket contract. In addition to winning the same contract again in 1969, NPL began to grow rapidly with new customers. By 1970, the company was approaching a revenue of $3 million.

Vince Beacom became a strong influence on NPL’s direction toward its core business of gas distribution work. Early on, he gave Coon the following advice: “Don’t gear up your business to do greenfield work. It’s over. Gear it up to paint fence posts. Put in main extensions and service lines. Do whatever the gas companies want you to do because they’re going to phase out their own crews. Gear up to replace gas systems.” And he was absolutely right.