When it comes to construction, few families are more knowledgeable than the Nickol family. Because of their hard work and devotion to the trade, the Nickol family was awarded the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA) of Iowa.
NUCA was founded in 1964, with the goal of unifying utility contractors to improve conditions in the industry. Today, over 40 state and local chapters dedicate themselves to supporting industry legislation and promoting safety awareness.
“Lifetime in the underground infrastructure world really is an eternity,” said Jeremy Feldmann, past president of NUCA Iowa. Feldmann presented the award to the Nickol family. “It’s being a leader and a mentor in our industry and dedicating a person’s life to make it possible to grow. It’s being able to be knocked down and getting back up on a daily basis for an entire lifetime working in this industry,” he said when presenting the award.
Marvin and Arlene Nickol started Nickol Construction, Inc., in 1969. Marvin installed sanitary sewer, water, lagoon systems, and some treatment plant work. He also did road boring for his own company and other contractors.
When he began the business, standard safety procedures were dramatically different from today’s standards. Trench shields, if they were used at all, were made of wood and bolted together. Today, trench shields are made of steel and carry a manufacturer’s certification. Pipe materials were made of clay for sanitary purposes, and cast iron for water pipes. Today, PVC and ductile iron pipe are commonplace. Excavators in Marvin’s era were run on chain driven tracks, a far cry from today’s hydraulic systems. No laws were in existence in the 1960s that required locating prior to digging, and previously existing underground utilities were dealt with as they were encountered.
Despite Marvin’s busy life on job sites and Arlene’s book work, the couple still had time to raise seven children. Marvin shut down Nickol Construction, Inc., in 1979 to spend more time at his family’s beef farming operation, and remained working until his retirement in 2000.
The torch was passed to Gerald and Glenda Nickol, who started G & G Construction in 1980, with excavating equipment purchased from Marvin. He sold his road boring equipment to Melvin and Ruth Nickol, who started Nickol Boring, Inc. Melvin and Matt Nickol joined forces in 2015 to start Nickol Earthmoving, Inc., which continues today.
All five of Marvin’s five sons have worked in the construction field, four of them for their entire working lives. In addition, three of his nephews have worked in construction as the third generation.
“At Nickol family gatherings, there is more pipe laid, more dirt moved and more bores installed than any other day of the year,” said Melvin Nickol. “Construction is more than just a job to most of us. It is a passion and our way of life.”
The entire Nickol family extends a heartfelt thank you to NUCA of Iowa for the award.