Spotlight on 35-Year Employee Harold Rogers

Harold started in the gas distribution industry in the Midwest just out of high school in 1971. When the owner of the first company he worked for decided to sell, one of Harold’s contacts at a long-time customer gave him the number of a new contractor getting started in Illinois – NPL. NPL had recently set up shop in Waterman, not too far from where the Cortland office is today. Thirty-five years later, Harold is still working for NPL.

It was 1982 when Harold made the trip to Waterman from Beloit, Wisconsin, to interview for a foreman position. The NPL “office” was an old gas station off the highway. The man he met there sat behind a weathered teacher’s desk from a high school classroom. It was Saturday, and a beer bottle from the night before was still sitting on a nearby shelf. “Things looked tough,” Harold said. “It was a ragtag equipment yard. When I went back the next day for a second interview, the first guy who interviewed me wasn’t even employed there anymore.” (Below: Old images of the Waterman yard, formerly owned by Smith Construction Co. Though the yard and equipment that NPL acquired were in bad shape, Smith’s contracts gave NPL a foothold in Illinois.)

 

 

 

 

Hired on as a foreman, Harold’s experience with early operations in Illinois was a bit of culture shock. “They wouldn’t let me take the truck home. I had to commute to get the truck, and then drive it out to Joliet where the work was,” he said. “I was used to relatively modern equipment and a certain way of doing things, so my ideas about how a crew should be made up and what equipment we needed were met with a bit of opposition.” He also had to contend with some financial uncertainty as NPL was still recovering from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1980. “The first week I worked, the payroll was bad. And there were days where we had to pull our money together to get stone for our jobs.”

About four years later, Harold was promoted to superintendent. Things began improving rapidly in Illinois. Harold was instrumental in helping modernize operations, as well as in hiring the right people. “It didn’t happen over night, but every five years or so we were noticeably more modern and getting closer to what we are now.” After ten years as a superintendent, Harold became Director of Construction. From the beginning of his career until today, Harold has seen Illinois operations grow to 1,000 employees and become one of the company’s top earning divisions as part of the Great Lakes region. (Left: A clipping from The Pipeline employee newsletter from 1990 featuring Harold as a superintendent.)

 

Harold reflected on why he has stayed with NPL for so long. “I’ve worked around a lot of guys in the industry who have bounced around between 8-10 contractors in their careers, and if half of what they say is true, I’m glad that I stuck with NPL. There’s been a lot of opportunity here and advancement as a result of hard work. I’ve been treated as fairly as can be. And I’ve enjoyed being a part of helping other guys advance. [NPL’s founder] Noel Coon treated us so well. I remember when he sold the company and said to us, “You guys made me. I’m not going to sell to the top dollar. I’m not going to sell to anyone who’s going to make you a number. I’m going to sell to someone where you’ll still have a name.” Because he cared about us like that, I’ve enjoyed being a part of Noel Coon’s success too.”