Atlas Agents Celebrate Longevity

Aug 03, 2004


In 1904, Swedish immigrants Fred Nelson and Oscar Westerberg went into business together, "with willing hands and stout hearts." Theirs was a simple plan: to deliver coal during the winter, and ice and some moving services during the summer to residents of the burgeoning city of Chicago. Eight years later, when they built the city's first fireproof warehouse, a local newspaper editorialized that they were "two entrepreneurs to watch." History concurs. The story of Nelson Westerberg speaks of perseverance, success, and growth.

With the advent of oil-burning furnaces and automatic refrigerators, Fred and Oscar shifted their business focus entirely to moving and storage. During the 1920s they doubled storage capacity, assembled a fleet of motorized trucks, and enjoyed the fruits of expansion. During the Great Depression, when many businesses were succumbing to bankruptcy, the firm tightened its belt, paid off its building bonds, and weathered the economic storm.

In 1932, the business welcomed the second generation of family leadership, Richard Oscar Westerberg. As the country struggled to regain its economic bearings, families consolidated their living spaces. As a result, the demand for storage remained strong, and it was an important mainstay of the company's business.

In 1960, Nelson Westerberg became an agent of Atlas Van Lines. Two years later, Lieutenant John R. Westerberg joined the company upon the completion of his duty with the U.S. Air Force. This marked the third generation of Westerberg leadership and a key moment in the firm's strategic direction.

"Increasingly, companies were becoming multinational and international," says John. "As part of this trend, they were moving people to where the jobs were, rather than hiring in their local markets."

Under John's influence, Nelson Westerberg concentrated on developing interstate household goods business as the provider of choice for major corporations who were relocating executive families.

Over the next forty years, the company's annual revenues grew from $126,000 in volume to more than $70 million. Today, in addition to headquarters in Chicago, Nelson Westerberg operates full service facilities in New York, Atlanta and Dallas. It employs over 450 people, including 150 owner-operators, and maintains some 450 pieces of equipment.

Nelson Westerberg is owned by John and his wife, Dottie, and their two sons, Stephen (Steve) and Robert Westerberg, MD. Steve, who represents the fourth generation of family leadership, serves as Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Quality Control.

As part of its centennial, plans are underway for a multi-city celebration in each of the cities where Nelson Westerberg operates. Beginning September 18, 2004, and the three succeeding weekends, the company will host a gala reception and dinner to celebrate its 100 years.

Reflecting on his company's success after 100 years, John says, "Our affiliation with Atlas has been truly a marriage made in heaven. Corporately and philosophically, Nelson Westerberg and Atlas are on the same page. We share the same enthusiasm for national account business, quality service, and the highest standards in business ethics."

"Doubly Golden"
Atlas Agency Marks Centennial

One hundred years ago in Longmont, Colorado, K. R. Golden started a business to provide transportation services for the people of Boulder County. This year, Golden Van Lines commemorates that founding and a century of service to customers, including a key role in the Atlas agent network.

Golden is headed by Todd Winter, President, and Kristi Winter-Davidson, Manager, Corporate Relocation Services, who are fifth-generation descendants of the founding family.

So what does it take to reach the 100-year milestone? Todd and Kristi believe it's all about the people who work with them.

"We're proud of the people who have chosen to build their careers with us," says Kristi. "And we are pleased to say that many of our employees have been with us not just for years, but decades."

"For example," says Todd, "we are fortunate to have had two of the finest drivers who ever took the wheel, Harry McNevin and Buddy Burns. Each logged more than two million accident-free miles."

Those familiar with the history and growth of Atlas know that Golden has played an integral role. In 1962, Atlas purchased Golden's operating authority, which opened the door for Atlas to the rapidly growing Rocky Mountain region. In 1970, Golden President Ken Winter was instrumental in establishing the framework for the Atlas Special Products Division, which is today the Specialized Transportation Group. Ken was also one of eleven agents who repurchased Atlas Van Lines from Wesray in 1988, an event that paved the way for total agent ownership of Atlas and its eventual financial stability.

In 1996, Golden was one of only four Atlas agencies to achieve the first Milt Hill Quality Award, a distinction it has earned six times. Also that year, the entire Atlas family was saddened by the unexpected death of Ken Winter. Todd was subsequently elected to the Board of Directors of Atlas World Group, a position he holds today.

Over the years, Golden has operated a variety of enterprises, including a taxi service, bulk commodities, sand & gravel, concrete manufacturing, construction, and trash disposal. Today, the company comprises three business entities: Golden Transfer, for intrastate traffic; Golden Van Lines, for interstate shipments; and Golden Archives, for the systematic transport, storage, retrieval, and disposal of documents.

"Over the years, a lot of people — employees, customers, and the many business people we partner with — have been important to our company's success," says Todd. "We are especially appreciative of them, particularly the members of the Atlas agency family. All of us at Golden are proud to be part of what is truly a world class organization."

Imlach Movers Marks Four Score

The year 1924 saw many firsts. The first round-the-world airplane flight...the first Winter Olympics...the first Caesar Salad... and the first year in business for Imlach Movers, Inc.

The company was founded in Trenton, Michigan, by Charles Imlach, who used a single truck to deliver ice in the morning and move furniture in the afternoon. In 1950, sons Allen and William took over the management of the company. The following year, Imlach became an agent for Atlas Van Lines. In 1987, the third and current generation of ownership took the helm, consisting of Daniel W. Imlach, Kenneth W. Imlach and Gregg B. Imlach. All three are still heavily involved in day-to-day operations.

As well as from its headquarters in Michigan, Imlach serves customers from locations in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Findlay and Lorain, Ohio; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Irving, Texas. Packing and hauling for corporate clients makes up more than 95% of the firm's business activity. Vice President Ken Imlach, who heads the agency's sales and marketing efforts, has been the top national account sales producer for Atlas in each of the last two years. A steadfast commitment to quality has earned Imlach Movers the Milton M. Hill Quality Award five times and the Hauling Excellence and Superior Packing awards every year since their inception.

In addition to corporate moves, Imlach is known for high-profile work. In 1988, the Atlas agent moved the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library from Washington, D.C. to southern California. The company has also relocated Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel (three times), musician Eminem, baseball executive John McHale, and Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford, Jr. to name a few.




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