Brothers Celebrating 35 Years at CJ Miller Reflect On The Construction Industry
In January of 1984, Roland Wilson came to work as a paving foreman at CJ Miller LLC. A month later, his brother Norman Wilson joined CJ Miller as a concrete foreman. Each brother worked his way up to the rank of Superintendent, and over the course of more than three decades, they have shared their experience, skills and strong work ethic with hundreds of employees. On a recent morning, the brothers sat beside each other in the company conference room, dressed in their typical blue jeans, work boots and collared shirts, to reflect on their 35 years at CJM.
“I’m proud of where I ended up,” said Roland, a spry 65-year-old known for running the paving division at CJ Miller with a great deal of enthusiasm and careful oversight. “My brother and I both quit school when we were younger. When I started working, my goal was to take a check home and work hard. I’m thankful that CJ Miller gave me this opportunity to move as high as I have.”
“I never expected to be where I’m at today,” echoed Norman, 62, who, while known for being meticulous in his work, is the more laid-back of the siblings. “I’m most proud of and enjoyed getting jobs done and turning out quality work. I’ve been told I was too picky, but it’s in our blood.”
The Early Years
“Our father only ever had one job,” Roland said. “He worked for the railroad starting at 16 as a carpenter. He was a supervisor when he retired.”
With their father’s work ethic as a model, the young Roland and Norman began working at a neighboring farm, which required them to ride their bicycles about four miles at 4 a.m. so they could milk the cows.
“We made $5 a day,” said Roland. “Most young people today wouldn’t get out of bed for $5 an hour.”
When he was 16, Roland went to work for a small construction company driving a lowboy trailer. Norman soon followed to the same company, where they worked together for about 10 years.
“I wanted to be a big trucker so I was driving over the road hauling heavy equipment,” Roland said. “I hauled a lot of heavy stuff. I still like driving trucks.”
Norman remembered starting as a laborer on his 18th birthday and eventually became a dump truck driver.
“Everybody wanted to be a trucker back then,” he said.
Being married and raising a son, Roland found the over-the-road life wasn’t ideal, so he went to work for another construction company and asked if he could have a shot as a blacktop foreman.
After six or so years with that company, and after Norman worked for the same company for just a few months, Roland and his brother both made the move to CJ Miller. Roland’s wife, Tina Wilson, his son Brandon Wilson, and his son-in-law Mike Utz, also work for CJ Miller.
“I was young and scared and married with two toddlers and I and just signed a contract on a house at the time,” Norman said. “I wanted to make sure I had a job where they had the work. I met Buck (Miller) at his house and got the job, and I’ve been here ever since.”
“Our parents never gave us any money,” Roland said. “We worked for everything we have.”
And both men take a great deal of pride in their work.
“Both of us have always been hands-on people,” Norman said. “When I came here, I was doing something a little different, but still pertained to concrete and I enjoyed it. Concrete work is hard. It’s labor intensive with very little machine work. It takes practice and taking pride in your work to perfect the craft.”
“I like riding on smooth roads,” Roland said. “When I was a foreman, I got a lot of paving awards, and it’s nice to look back and know I paved that road and get a good compliment on it. I still take pride in my work.”
While they agree the construction industry will always be vital for America’s infrastructure, the brothers do express concern about the work ethic of many young workers.
“You have to want to do something,” Roland said. “Young kids today – all they want is a paycheck.”
He also said in the construction industry, you have to work your way up.
“You want to run a piece of equipment?” Roland asked. “Well first you have to learn how to run a shovel.”
The brothers say to be a good employee and have success, you have to be willing to do anything that you’re asked to do.
“Like I always said, I wouldn’t ask you to do anything that I haven’t already done or would do,” Norman said. “And I haven’t. I’ve done a lot of things I didn’t like doing, but I did them because I needed a paycheck and I had a family to feed.”
In addition, he said, “What you don’t know, don’t be too proud to ask a more experienced person. You only learn by experience.”
When asked why they chose CJ Miller as the company where they would build their 35-year-careers, Norman said “we stayed because it’s a good company. It’s the best company we ever worked for.”