Founded in 1949, Rogers Machinery is a great business success story of friendship and service. Ned Rogers was born into the compressor business as a member of the Gardner family, who founded Gardner Denver, a mature, respected mid-West industrial equipment company. Rogers joined the United States Navy during the Second World War and served on a light cruiser called the USS Reno in the South Pacific Ocean. It was here that he befriended Walter Novak, a mechanical engineer and hard-working son of Polish immigrants. Together they made plans to be business partners if they made it through the war. In spite being assaulted by torpedoes and having an Imperial Japanese Navy torpedo plane crash into the USS Reno’s fantail, both Rogers and Novak were able to make it home safe.
Following the war, Novak returned home to Seattle where he worked several jobs. As a mechanical engineer, he found work at a steel fabricator, designing pressure vessels and liquid tanks installed at the Hanford nuclear reservation, the original Olympia Brewery, and other sites. Meanwhile, Rogers was proceeding with his plans and established a machinery company in Portland, Oregon. He began with a few product lines including Gardner Denver, Quincy Compressor, and several pump equipment manufacturers. Eventually, Rogers recruited Novak to come from Seattle to Portland to be his partner.
In the beginning, they had to create a sustainable business model, and Novak brought with him a work ethic and a business sense that paired well with Roger’s charisma and connections. Together, they began to build the company into a very profitable venture.
The company established themselves as a key equipment and service provider to the dominant industries in the market. The timber industry in the Pacific Northwest was thriving during the post-war years. Lumber sales in that region were exploding. Families were setting down roots, and there were many homes to build. Since Douglas firs of the Pacific Northwest grow quickly and can be harvested for lumber within fifty years, the timber market in this region became prosperous very quickly. Air compressors have important applications in lumber mills, such as for driving pistons that can be used to move logs, debarking and dust control.
Leadership made a strategic decision to open a second location in Eureka, California to be closer to customers in that market. Being accessible to customers for support and service became a deliberate strategy of the company, and Rogers Machinery continued to expand according to where support was needed. Eureka was soon followed by a third location in Seattle, Washington.
In the mid-sixties, after a successful career in the business, Ned Rogers passed. “Ned was a warm, visionary leader and his legacy of generosity lives on in the business today.” says Andrew Ragen, Rogers Machinery President/CEO and grandson of Novak.