Mark Wambach first met Noel Coon in college while working as a bartender in 1976. After Mark graduated, the flat broke teacher and coach called Noel about a job working on the pipeline in Michigan and Minnesota as a laborer/operator during summers. It didn’t take long for Mark to see his potential with the company. By 1981, he was working for NPL full time.
When NPL hit hard times in the early 80s, Mark, a foreman at the time, knew that he didn’t have the seniority to be kept on in Minnesota. He faced a choice: relocate to Eerie, Pennsylvania, to join a bore truck crew doing midstream work, or move to Phoenix for cable tv work. Choosing the latter, Mark was one of first of the NPL’s Minnesota natives who grabbed some equipment and migrated Southwest. The rest is history.
Ask any of the long-time NPL employees who were part of that move, and you’re likely to hear that Mark was a strong influence for sticking with the company. In his 40-year career, he’s been instrumental in building NPL into a $900 million industry leader. Anyone who’s heard Mark reflect on this growth will attest to his genuine belief that NPL’s success is founded on the work of quality people.
When Mark decided to move to Arizona, Noel told him to pick up a bore truck and trailer in Gonvick, Minnesota, and haul some equipment all the way down. Despite having never driven a truck of that size, job preservation prompted Mark to assure his supervisor that he had “been born behind the wheel of a truck.” After grinding through gears for the first 150 miles, he confessed. That’s when something unexpected happened. Rather than fire him, Mark’s supervisor taught him to drive instead. “That instilled in me what NPL is all about,” he said. “We’re all about helping people be successful.”
Left: Mark measures the depth of a trench on an early job in Arizona. Right: A clipping from the NPL Pipeline employee newsletter featuring Mark in 1987 as Vice President of the Western Region.
During those first years in Arizona, Mark did what he needed to grow the business. From typing invoices on a Smith & Corona in his tiny apartment, to charging gas with his personal credit card to keep crews up and running, his steadfast commitment was focused on getting NPL on the Arizona Public Service bid list for gas work. Noel Coon began to take notice of the good things Mark was doing. The business was growing in revenue, and NPL was hiring to fill crews. All of the hard work paid off when NPL won its first blanket gas contract in the mid-80s.
By the 1990s, NPL was rock solid and expanding, not only in the Southwest but in other regions across the U.S. as well. Mark had advanced in the company to running NPL’s Western operation. In the decades that followed, he was instrumental in helping to manage NPL’s change and growth. In 2016, he was appointed President of NPL. “NPL has a growth culture. The people in Operations run it like they own it. We are on the move. We are looking for opportunities, looking for what’s new. This culture stems back to Noel Coon. It’s in our DNA.”
Left: Mark accepts Phoenix’s Golden Shovel safety award from Jim Loehr in 1991.
Having gone from laborer to president of the company, Mark embodies the potential that careers at NPL represent. And like nearly every other 35-year employee who this series has featured, Mark agrees that these meaningful careers are possible because NPL cares about its employees. “NPL is all about the people, and the passion. That culture has been passed down from generation to generation. It’s always been our competitive advantage, and it’s the key for our continued success. I’m honored and thrilled to be president of this company and part of helping lay the foundation for the next group of NPLers. I see nothing, nothing but great things in the future. It’s great to be at the sunset of your career and realize that you are a part of a company that is a leader in the industry. It’s a dream.”