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Celebrating a Milestone

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

by: Ashley Albaugh

Can you imagine living – working – being in one place for 50 years? 

I can’t – maybe it’s the “millennial” in me. But, I am in awe of people who live or work in one place for decades at a time. 

Field crews arrive to celebrate Jimmy

Above: You can't miss this bunch that came to help Jimmy celebrate!

I discovered during my first interview at Neumann Brothers (a meager 3 years ago) that people here stick around. I was surrounded by people who answered the “how long have you worked here” question with 10 years, 15, 24, 30+. To me that said something special about the people who work here and the company they worked for…I jumped on board. Since then I’ve found it’s not just office employees who make a career here. Neumann’s field crews have impressive tenure too! 

And then I met Jimmy. 

Jim Trower 50 years and counting

Above: Jim Trower, the man of the decade - or 5!

Jim Trower makes 20 years look like a second. See, as of May 11, 2017, Jimmy has worked for Neumann Brothers for 50 years! No kidding! 50, 5-0, as in 5 whole decades! 

Let me put this into perspective: Neumann Brothers, Inc. hit the 105 year milestone this year which means that Jim has worked here for almost half of Neumann’s entire history. He has worked under and with all three Neumann generations – starting with Arthur H. Neumann through the 2nd generation of Gordon, Hal, Walter, Oscar and Charles and on to Bruz’s (Marshall Linn) generation – and now through the transition to our current ownership. 

Sharing Stories - Bruz, Mike and Jim

Above: Bruz Linn, Mike Simpson and Jim Trower reflect on Jimmy's career with affection.

He worked through the days of driving back and forth to each jobsite, to two-way radios, then pagers, the original cell phone that limited your minutes and now to the data phone. He even remembers the days when Iron Workers didn’t have to be tied off and would literally run around and do handstands on beams several stories off the ground! (Those people sound insane!) “The biggest change I’ve seen in the industry is to safety – that’s good, we needed it!” he noted.

Jimmy started at Neumann in 1967 at the ripe old age of 19 as a Carpenters Apprentice. His father, Doyle Trower, worked for Neumann and, although he tried to convince Jim to find another career path, Jimmy grew up watching his dad, loving what he did and couldn’t resist. When he started he was put to work on the Register & Tribune project – forming decks and fireproofing columns. Then, just when he thought he’d get a break from concrete prep, they sent him to the Black Oaks office building where there was more poured in place concrete. “I remember those first two because there was so much concrete – I lived and breathed it for months,” Jimmy said.

People gather to enjoy the party

Above: Sharing memories and laughs.

He first acted as Superintendent while he was still an apprentice but if you ask him, he has no clue what that job was. “There have been too many – it’s impossible to remember them all!” He does, however, clearly remember the Downtown Marriott project. “Marriott was a big job for us and for the city too,” he said. “At one point or another I think everyone at Neumann worked on that project.”

The “River project” (Iowa Power and Light) on the other hand is one he’s sure he’ll never forget. When we pressed him for details he’d only admit that it was dubbed “the job from hell!” and “that you really had to be there”. When Henry Putney walked in on our chat and Jim asked him for his opinion all he could say was “UGH! That was a hell of a mess!” Seeing what passed between the two of them though – I really want to know more! (Maybe by the time they retire they’ll be willing to share.)

The old timers

Above: Cody Paul, Jim Griffiths, Henry Putney, Jim Trower, Ron Cain, & Robbi Howard

But watching Jimmy and Henry I understood that when Jim says “It’s the people!” that have kept him here for so long, he isn’t exaggerating. Those two alone have stories that you just know could fill a book, imagine how many books Jimmy could fill with his 50 years’ worth of stories and relationships. “I’ve learned everything I know about construction here, from and with these people” he said. 

In 50 years, who’s had the biggest influence on his career? Bruz. “We’ve worked together for 40+ years – starting way back when he (Bruz) only worked summers during college,” Jimmy said. Bruz helped him develop his management style and taught him everything he knows about estimating.

Jimmy with Harold Capps, Jr.

Above: Harold Capps, Jr. (EMC Insurance Companies)  stopped by to congratulate Jim on his 50 years!

So, what does Jimmy want others to take from him? “You have to enjoy what you do! That old saying about if you love what you do, you never work a day – it’s true!” He said he’s definitely had a few “work” days over his 50 years but they were few and far between. “I love this job and Neumann’s a great company – I have stuck around for 50 years after all!”

He also wants new leaders to remember to listen to their workers. “You have to adapt. This is the only industry, I can think of, that you can make changes to,” he commented. “Listen to your crew – you may not like everything they say or be able to make everything work – but they know what they’re doing and have good ideas!”

Surprise Cake

Above: What's a celebration without cake? - Do we know him well or what?

And the young one’s coming in? “Learn it as you go!” He says you can’t take in everything all at once but with patience and a willingness to learn – you’ll go far both at Neumann and in the construction industry.

I believe Jimmy has seen just about everything over his career and claims he’ll keep working as long as we’ll have him. “It seems like just yesterday I started here – I wish I could do another 50! It’s hard to think of retiring – Neumann and the people here – it’s like a family.” 

Jimmy with his daughter and son

Above: Jim and his daughter, Jennifer and son, Ricky

Well Jimmy, if I have any sway we’ll keep you around – you’re pretty handy and always good for some entertainment! From me and all of us at Neumann Brothers – Congratulations on a wonderful 50 years and counting!