Cloquet construction company quitting businessAfter 90 years in the construction business, 2009 will be the final year of operation for Nels Nelson and Sons Inc. of Cloquet.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune, Pine Journal
After 90 years in the construction business, 2009 will be the final year of operation for Nels Nelson and Sons Inc. of Cloquet.
President David Nelson declined to discuss the circumstances that led to the decision to close but said the firm will complete any work already in progress and under contract before winding down operations.
As of last year, the company employed 76 people.
Nels Nelson, David Nelson’s grandfather, founded the construction firm in 1919.
The news of the Cloquet company’s pending demise came as a surprise to Brent Pykonnen, Duluth area business agent for the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 49.
“It’s a bummer to lose a local family company that’s been in the picture for so long and that’s provided a home for so many operators for so many years,” he said.
Depending on the project mix it was handling at any particular time, Nels Nelson & Sons typically provided employment for 20 to 30 union members, according to Pykonnen. The union represents heavy equipment operators, mechanics, surveyors and other construction workers.
“It hurts, because a lot of long-term employees don’t know where they’re going to go now,” he said.
The firm specialized in heavy construction, tackling water, sewer, utilities, road construction and other projects.
One of the company’s repeat customers has been the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
“Nels Nelson has an excellent reputation, and they’ve been involved in a bunch of our projects,” said Dan Russell, executive director of the DECC. He said the company helped build the Duluth 10 cinema and a parking ramp in the past. It also has been involved in the construction of a new ramp expansion now under way at the DECC. Nels Nelson & Sons also had been tapped to do some paving associated with the new DECC arena.
Nevertheless, Russell predicts the Cloquet company’s folding should do nothing to hold up completion of either the DECC’s new ramp or its arena.
Nels Nelson & Sons also had been selected to oversee an extension Duluth’s Lakewalk. Representatives of the city engineer’s office were unavailable for a status report on the project late Monday afternoon.
Nels Nelson & Sons had fallen behind on required payments to several union pension funds, resulting in suits filed on behalf of the Minnesota Teamsters, the Minnesota Laborers and the Minnesota Cement Masons. In recent months, the company has been ordered on three separate occasions to submit payroll records and make good on past pension funding commitments.
Andrew Staab, an attorney for the Minnesota Cement Masons Pension Fund, said that without requested payroll records yet in hand, it is impossible to say exactly how much Nels Nelson & Sons owes his client. He noted that the firm had fallen behind in its payments several years running, likely as a result of perennial cash flow issues but it has always settled those debts.