Our Heritage

NMC: How it all got started

If you were paying attention in your high school history class, you’ll remember learning that life in Nebraska during the 1930’s was hard. People were dealing with the lingering grip of the Great Depression, there was ongoing drought and heat which lead to the Dust Bowl, and as if that wasn’t enough….a grasshopper invasion plagued the state.

If there can be an up-side to living through the Great Depression and a plague of insects, it was a growing sense of resiliency and can-do spirit; a grit and determination to create new opportunities. In fact, it was this determination for a new opportunity – and a friendship struck up between two men – which lead to a business of their own: Nebraska Machinery Company (now NMC).

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Joe Swanson met W.A. Norris in Cheyenne, Wyoming, while both worked for the state’s highway engineering department. Through their work with the highway engineering department, both had contacts at Caterpillar. Norris, a native of North Platte, Nebraska, also had a network of professional relationships in his hometown. These connections led to conversations with Caterpillar about launching a dealership. In the summer of 1938 NMC was appointed the Caterpillar distributor for western Nebraska.

The company hit the ground running with several large projects. During its first year of business, NMC provided earthmoving equipment for the Kingsley Dam. This holds back the waters of the North Platte River and forms Lake McConaughy which is the second largest, hydraulic fill dam in the world. Then came the biggest public works project in world history – the Federal-Aid Act of 1956 which authorized the US interstate highway system. As the interstate work moved west across Nebraska, this positioned the company to be a valuable contributor to the massive effort.

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Throughout the next several decades there was much growth and change. The business expanded from its beginnings in North Platte, Nebraska, and along the way opened facilities throughout the state – from Scottsbluff to Omaha.

And then the year was 1987. Moviegoers were laughing at Three Men And A Baby, the Bangles were telling us to Walk Like An Egyptian, Ronald Reagan was asking Mr. Gorbachev to tear down this wall, and a gallon of gas set us back 89 cents. It was also the year – after the purchase of two other Caterpillar equipment dealerships – that NMC became the sole Caterpillar dealership in Nebraska.

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In addition to geographical expansions, the business broadened its offerings to include equipment sales, rental and service for the power generation, material handling, on-highway truck, agriculture, and transport industries. With these expanded product and service offerings, NMC branched out from its home state of Nebraska and hung We’re Open for Business signs on Material Handling facilities in Iowa and the Dakotas.

Three generations later and more than 80 years after the doors opened on the first NMC location, the company is still family owned. And like the generations that came before – there is still a can-do spirit leading the way. There is a continuing focus to help customers succeed and a determination to create new opportunities for today as well as for the next 80 years.

  • I started with NMC in the service department back in 1976. A lot has changed over the years – but NMC is still a great place to come to work every day. My favorite “memory” of NMC can be summed up by all the customers I’ve gotten to work with over the years. You build up quite a few incredible relationships over 40 years. During my career here, I’ve been a technician, a service manager, a store manager and now a Director, and I’ve had relationships with some of the same customers the entire time. It’s pretty cool when you think about it.

    Dwight McDermott, Director of Parts and Service NMC Employee