Like many students, Dave Noorlag had a summer job while in high school. He drove a garbage truck for a sanitation company.
When the company needed a welder to fix the trucks, Noorlag bought some equipment and began learning from experienced welders.
“When I started, I just thought it was a way to make a little extra money,” he said. “I learned the welding business, and it just took off from there.”
Noorlag now runs that business – Dave’s Welding Service – out of his home in Darien. And it has provided him with an unending variety of projects.
Noorlag has worked on pipelines for oil companies down in Texas. His company did all the joints on the water pipeline that runs from the Chicago pumping station to our area. He’s worked on the railings at the Oak Brook Shopping Center and the cart corrals at Walmart. He’s repaired and rebuilt lawnmowers for park districts.
“If you like sprinkles on your donuts, they probably came out of a machine that we designed and built,” he said. “Four or five (of us) were standing around (saying), ‘We can build a better one of those.’ And we did. We built them and gave them to the customers. Two of the original machines we built are in China now.”
And Noorlag is still working on vehicles and heavy equipment. From drilling rigs in quarries to bulldozers, he repairs them wherever they break down.
“If they break a bulldozer in half, we’ll go weld it back together and they’ll drive it out of the hole,” he said. “We’ve done everything you could think off. If it’s metal, we’ve probably worked on it.”
In recent years, Noorlag has focused his business on maritime interests. He’s developed and built docks along the lakes and rivers of the Chicago area.
“Most of the boats at Navy Pier have our handiwork on them,” he said.
Noorlag’s wife, Michelle, added, “We can pretty much do anything on a boat, from the hull to the electrical to the drivelines to the propellers to repowering them.”
Michelle has worked for the company for 17 years. But being married to the owner didn’t earn her any special treatment.
“He made me come out into the field,” she explained. “I cut parts and hauled parts and sorted tools. I did everything the guys do, from cleaning the truck and sweeping the driveway all the way up to welding. I’ve been on and off the boats, doing ultrasounds, measuring the thickness of steel. I had to learn to scuba-dive. Everything that he learned, I had to learn.”
Dave’s Welding Service is a family business. When she’s not in school, daughter Caitlyn also works part-time for the company. In addition to Michelle and Caitlyn, Noorlag has four full-time employees, with tenures of six to 20 years. He’s proud of the fact that they’ve been able to keep all their employees, even during challenging times. His employees appreciate it as well.
“They usually don’t leave,” he said. “It’s a family business, and everyone becomes part of the family. We all work together very well.”
Noorlag recognizes the importance of training his employees, both onsite and in the classroom. Because of the nature of their work, he added a special requirement.
“Everyone has to be trained in life-saving,” he said. “It’s very important. You never know what situation you might find yourself in. It’s just good business practice. Everybody’s ready in case something does happen.”
Noorlag also makes sure that everyone is up-to-date on their certifications.
“Everybody that’s doing welding is certified – ASME, ABS, American Welding Society,” he explained. “And the guys are all 6GR-certified, which is the highest certification you can have. We have two employees who are certified for working in the nuke plants. We don’t work in the plants themselves, but we do parts that are installed in the plants, so they have to meet the standards for that; they have to be perfect.”
Caitlyn mentioned another certification, one that not many can claim.
“Very recently, we all became 100-ton boat captains,” she said. “We took our classes and got certified.”
“So everyone is a merchant marine with a 100-ton license,” her dad added, “through the U.S. Coast Guard.”
Noorlag works a lot with the Coast Guard. His is one of only two companies in the Midwest that are U.S. Coast Guard dive-certified. They dive for recovery, salvage and inspections, sometimes using a crane-boat they built themselves.
Dave Noorlag is proud of his work.
“It’s been very challenging at times, but it’s always been very rewarding,” he said. “In the end, when you stand back and look at a finished product, it’s a good feeling. And that’s the bottom line. You work to produce something that has a lasting effect. And most people don’t know about it, but that’s OK.”
For more information, contact Dave Noorlag at 630-655-3224 or email@example.com.