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OE324 and McNally-Nimergood: 75 Years of Partnership

In the late 1960s when Mike Sherwood came back from deployment in the service, he did not know he was looking for a career, just a job.  He had worked at WF McNally Co. for a couple years while he was in college, driving a gravel truck and came back hoping the company might have a spot for him upon his return.  They did, but it wasn’t driving a truck anymore, it was running a finishing machine.  Bill McNally paid for his initiation into Operating Engineers 324, and his long career as an Operating Engineer – one that led him all over Michigan and eventually to the OE324 Training Center in Howell – had begun.

When Sherwood came back that summer, WF McNally Co. had already been building the roads and bridges of mid-Michigan for 22 years. William McNally started his company as a road building business and built city streets in Saginaw and Frankenmuth, as well as sections of I-75 and other state highways.  Eventually, McNally partnered with Bob Nimergood, became McNally-Nimergood, and began renting construction equipment.

And they have been partnered with Operating Engineers 324 almost the entire time.

It was in the world of cranes that they ended up and a move that Sherwood made in that first year as an Operator.

“When road season was over, they moved me to oiler (on cranes),” says Sherwood.  “I had two mentors that taught me when I was an oiler at McNally-Nimergood.  The company was always good about giving youth a chance to learn.”

In 1978, after the death of Bob Nimergood, Bill McNally made the decision to cease road building operations and focus on crane rental.  Since then, they have been involved in many of the largest – and most notable – projects in the state and even the country.

McNally-Nimergood has placed cranes in the North Sea, the Caribbean and in South America. They have assisted in building bridges over the Mississippi River and erecting the Ski Jump that was used for the Lake Placid Winter Olympics (1980).

In Michigan, they have supplied cranes for work on the Mackinac, Zilwaukee and Blue Water Bridges – work that Sherwood remembers very clearly.

“I had a 4100 up on top of the Blue Water Bridge, looking right down the stacks of those freighters,” Sherwood laughs. “Had a 3-degree crown going up to it.  I was picking the beams up behind and turning a 180-degree swing.”

Energy generation has long been a sector McNally-Nimergood has extensive work in, including the Michigan Cogeneration Venture plant in Midland and current work with the large wind energy companies assisting on wind tower repairs.  They were involved with the building of the People Mover in downtown Detroit, upgrades to Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor and work on the Pontiac Silverdome.

“My grandfather Bill (McNally) was a graduate of the University of Michigan,” explains Meghan McNally-Wininger, Safety & Compliance and Marketing for the company, “so he was always very excited and proud for the work we did renovating the Big House.”

McNally Cranes have also been involved in behind the scenes work for some Hollywood productions, including “Die Hard 2” which was filmed in the UP and “Transformers” which was filmed in Detroit.

For Project Manager and OE324 member Mike Prenzler, working on the Transformer movie was particularly memorable.

“We were in Downtown Detroit and Pontiac – it was great to see how it all came together.”

Prenzler started at McNally-Nimergood in 2007 while attending college and moved to crane operator and eventually Project Manager.  He was joined by his brother Eric Prenzler. Mike’s knowledge of the company’s equipment eventually made him a great addition to their sales and estimating team, and Eric is now operating some of the largest cranes in their fleet, including a 500-ton Liebherr LTM 1400.

That is a theme of which the team at McNally-Nimergood is particularly proud.  They point out the large number of employees and OE324 members that have stayed there a long time and retired from there.

“The most important contribution to our success has been the people that have worked here,” says Jeff McNally, President and CEO. “McNally-Nimergood is a family-owned company with a family atmosphere.  Over the years, sons have worked with fathers and grandfathers, and many brothers and cousins have worked together as well.  We take pride in the fact that many of our employees have been working with us for decades.”

McNally points out that Allen Kosecki (30 years), Kirk Kruskie (27 years), Doug Hughes (22 years) and Mike Prenzler are all examples of the longevity they take pride in.

When Sherwood left McNally-Nimergood in 1997, he didn’t head home – he went to Howell, where he worked as a crane instructor for 5 years, teaching many current members who were apprentices at the time.

“That may be what I’m most proud of,” says Sherwood.  “It was certainly rewarding.  Especially as I get older, and look back on apprentices I had, having great careers, even being supervisors.”

Sherwood is also proud of a few programs that he had a role in starting at the OE324 Training Center while he was there – the MUSAR program, and the ‘Raising Gang’ partnership with Ironworkers Local 25.

The training Operating Engineers 324 Apprentices and Journeypersons receive is one of the reasons McNally-Nimergood values the partnership.

“I’ve been to Howell many times,” offers Prenzler.  “I’ve taken quite a few CCO exams, MSHA, OSHA 30 – it’s a great place to learn.  There are great instructors, and it really shows what training the union has to offer.”

“The OE324 training program provides our operators with a high-quality education, and they leave with the skills they need to be successful in the field,” says Jeff McNally. “Dustin Nothelfer is a great example of the benefits of the training program.  Dustin came to work for us two years ago as an apprentice and has become an integral part of our team.  Through the training that he is receiving with the OE324 and the experience that he has gotten working with us, Dustin has become an excellent crane operator.  In a relatively short period of time, he has gained the skills necessary to operate some of our largest equipment.”

That education extends to their technicians, of whom they laud.  Service technicians Mike Dooley, Mitch Dobromil and Tim Harris work to ensure equipment is in excellent condition.

“They understand that efficiency is important to our customers and that equipment downtime is costly.  Their proactive approach and the upgrades that we have made, including adding a second service truck and building a 10,000+ square foot service facility has ensured that we are providing our customers and our operators safe, efficient equipment to work with,” says McNally.

So what does the future hold for OE324 and McNally-Nimergood?

Says McNally, “The resources that the partnership between McNally-Nimergood and the OE324 provides has been an important part of ensuring that our team is prepared to execute tasks safely and efficiently.  All of our crane operators receive their NCCCO mobile crane certification at the career center in Howell.  Our experience with the career center has given us the confidence that our team is learning valuable skills every time they are there.

In the 75 years that we have been in business, we have employed hundreds of OE324 members and are proud that we have been able to provide them with the best healthcare, excellent retirement benefits and a livable wage because of our affiliation with the OE324.  We look forward to continuing our partnership and hope to build on our current relationship.”

Prenzler agrees. “The training we can receive, the benefits, retirement and great healthcare.  When you partner an employer and union – like Operating Engineers 324 and McNally-Nimergood, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

For the retired Sherwood, his happiness reflects that relationship.

“Being both a 324 member and working for McNally – retirement is the reward for the years.  You feel very fortunate that you were in the union.  It means a lot.  I was a part of a really great partnership.”