When 35-year employee Bob Harty first considered moving to the Southwest to work for NPL in 1982, he was offered $5 an hour to be a laborer. It took the much more impressive wage of $5.50 to convince him to leave his job as a struggling sub-contractor in Minnesota and join Mark Wambach, current president of NPL, and the other Minnesota natives who had relocated to Arizona for the tv cable work NPL was doing there.
At the time, NPL was working its way through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the new division in Arizona was trying to break into the gas distribution market there. With limited resources, the Arizona crews made do with what they had.
In Bob’s words:We didn’t have backhoes, and we barely had enough trucks. We’d start each day at one end of the street in our “safety attire” of work boots and shorts with some shovels, a hole hawg and a compressor. At each house, we dug a hole on each side of the driveway and then used the hole hawg to bore beneath. We drug the compressors to the next house by hand. Eventually we upgraded from the hole hawgs to water bore trucks, but that just meant you were standing in water up to your knees or waist in the bell holes. That was especially “fun” on cool mornings. And your boots never dried out. It was hard work. If you weren’t at the other end of the street by the end of the day, you didn’t have a job the next day.
(1983 – A photo of NPL’s earliest work in Arizona running tv cable. Bob is the guy in the red shirt.)
There were times when we had to be creative, like when we went from pulling just a few sticks of conduit at a time to multiple bundles of conduit. We used an old tire to ream the bore hole. And to keep the bundle of conduits straight as an old Case 30+4 pushed it through, the whole crew had to sit on the conduit bundle.
I was completely green. But the work got in my blood, and I loved it. We had our meetings in Mark Wambach’s living room. It was a bunch of guys from Minnesota who were all working their tails off together. Having a common goal made things fun.
The cable work got our foot in the door with Arizona Public Service to do gas work. We started small for them with service replacements. Things progressed from there to bigger and bigger jobs up until now.
Bob has played many roles during his 35-year career: cable laborer, cable foreman, gas laborer, fitter, truck driver, plumber, foreman, coordinator, supervisor, superintendent. In addition to working all over the state of Arizona, he has also worked in Utah, Wyoming and Texas when needed. He has been in his current position of Construction Crew Supervisor for the last six years.
For me it’s always been about the people here. Mentoring others and seeing people advance has been meaningful and rewarding. NPL has always been a fair company to work for.