REELSTRONG'S objective is to make powerline construction safer and more efficient through advanced engineering and improving the buying process through open and direct communication with no fluff. As we rebuild a new era through power, gas and telecom expansion, REELSTRONG promises to contribute by continuously engineering designs that serve today's safety and cost-conscious manager while always providing old-style customer service.
In 2006, fresh off the boat from County Monaghan, Ireland, Brian F. Forde decided to have a pint at his favorite local Irish Pub in West Chester, PA. Behind the bar was 36 year old, late bloomer Noel C. Smith who was bartending to pay for college since his farming family was pushing him to be the first to get a degree.
Brian was a friendly, yet sarcastic fellow and enjoyed a good laugh and needling once in awhile. Noel, outgoing himself was perfectly suited for the job and served up what Brian was looking for. They got along well as they were dreamers and risk takers looking for ways to move onward and upward. One night they were brainstorming new career ideas and Brian being a mechanic for an underground directional driller said "I see a lot of old looking reel trailers designs all over the place" and asked Noel if he wanted to help him start a reel trailer company since Noel spent his first 15 years in the workplace as a welder/fabricator and millwright.
Always looking for more hours and challenges, Noel gladly agreed to work nights and days off to do the welding and fitting.
During this time, Noel consistently struggled with welding, repairing and replacing reel-securing pins on reel trailers and experienced a dislodged reel on the highway because of a loose pin. While driving he looked over and saw the reel was literally rolling beside the truck! Smith saw his life flash before his eyes as he knew he could have really hurt someone. After careful consideration, Noel determined it really wasn't his fault and wondered how this could happen so easy.
Noel quickly surveyed numerous linemen and underground contractors and astoundingly found his accident was far from isolated. As a result, Smith immediately went to work seeking investors to help develop a "PINLESS" line of reel trailers. Additionally, his ladyfriend at the time said: "I think you should call it REELSTRONG." Noel saw this combination of marrying a strong brand with strong proprietary product design as a once in a lifetime opportunity and immediately went to work penning a business plan. Miraculously, in the middle of the Great Recession he was able secure six (6) local investors and partnered with various Lancaster PA farm equipment engineers and Amish manufacturers to draw and build the CL Autolock™ Self-loading Reel Trailer. (The CL is still Reelstrong's most timeless and popular reel trailer)
Noel went back to Brian Forde and presented his idea in hopes of partnering on the idea....and well...for many reasons it didn't go over well. Nevertheless, after some old fashioned knock down, drag em' out Irish / American clashing over who would control the company Brian and Noel came to terms. Noel kept the company, gave Brian a healthy share and Brian moved back to Ireland where his heart remains. To this day, he lives happily on a farm in his hometown in County Monaghan with his new family and he and Noel are on good terms to this day.
Noel then rolled up his sleeves and went to work with his investors / shareholders:
As follows is a list of REELSTRONG SHAREHOLDERS:
Toni Leslie: Marketing guru (and Noel's ladyfriend at the time). Like Noel, Toni put in no cash, just unrelenting sweat equity. She designed the website, brochures and logo and added model pics on the website as Noel fabricated each design. She is responsible for coining the name "Reelstrong."
Bryan Kelly: An old friend who pitched in cash and introduced Noel to a local Construction Company Owner: Ivar Galilea.
Ivar Galilea: Owner of Alternate Construction Concepts and of Viking origin. He provided Noel Capital and a one car garage to build prototypes while providing Noel welding work from his company at night and on the side..
Austin Saylor: A friend of Noel's and Toni's. He injected capital and maintained the website for free while Noel allocated all available capital to furthering the line card, R&D and manufacturing infrastructure.
Stuart Burns: Ivar's Father-in-Law and Founder of world renowned SAFWAY SCAFFOLDING.
That said, it was the start of the Great Recession, and after two years of building prototypes and hustling around PA Dutch Country trying to get his designs manufactured he just didn't have much luck outsourcing manufacturing and R&D. Always on the verge of bankruptcy, and chomping at the bit to get a large investment to buy fabrication equipment, he finally convinced Stuart to inject capital for fabrication equipment. The Recession was still in full force and Noel didn't know anyone in the power or telecom industries and needed connections for sales help.
Not having much capital, but knowing he had to take a risk he applied at the invite only EUFMC conference in Williamsburg VA in 2008 and was accepted! He showed his CL Autolock design at the drive through parade and not being much of a public speaker totally tanked his speech. A few fleet managers thought this to be admirable and genuine and approached Noel with interest in purchasing. Luckily, Gerry Brown from the Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO) needed the exact style trailer Noel showed, bought it and literally saved the company from bankruptcy. Additionally, that year Noel was approached by the late Bill Flemming from Asplundh to build some very large self-loading reel trailers. Bill would visit Noel in his garage and mentor him through the necessities and safety features required of large power company reel trailers. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter Bill passed away. Bill, will always be remembered as one of Reelstrong's most important pioneers for helping and mentoring a 1-car garage start-up through tough times. His kindness with no expectation of anything in return was a true blessing and we are forever grateful to Bill. He will live forever in our hearts.
All said, the recession churned on and Noel needed all the help he could get—especially in sales. Luckily and as it would be, one of his friends and Philadelphia native Mike Murphy introduced him to Tommy Goldhorn from Goldhorn Electrical Construction who then introduced him to Local IBEW 126 retiree Tom Roberts who we'll talk about shortly.
Since 2006, REELSTRONG trialed, scrapped, re-trialed and sold numerous prototypes with the vision to eliminate all manual reel-securing and loose hardware on all types of reel and pole trailers. Eager to market his new technology, but constrained by the chains of a recession and a limited line card, Smith purposely repositioned his strategy to take advantage of the recession by diving deeper under the radar to build a local, personal reputation for unrelenting service and reliability by building one off custom jobs that few established reel trailer companies wanted. Every one-off model Noel built he put up on his website and built the line card. The recession could have buried Noel, but he turned this obstacle into an opportunity allowing him the extra time to fine-tune and perfect a more comprehensive line of equipment so when the economy improved REELSTRONG UF would emerge the world's premier powerline construction equipment leader.
After 14 years, Reelstrong has finally embarked on advertising through trade magazines and a bold campaign at the 2019 ICUEE show. According to Noel, Reelstrong and it's shrareholders have worked hard and have practiced strategic patience to build the world's first powerline construction equipment Legacy brand and has vowed to unrelentingly forge on and never look back.
REELSTRONG was incorporated in 2006 and after three years of R&D. The official domestic launch took place in June 2009 at the Electric Utility Fleet Manager's Conference in Williamsburg, VA and on the worldwide stage at the 2009 ICUEE show in Louisville, KY.
REELSTRONG applied for its first provisional patent on Feb. 6th of 2008 and applied for a domestic and international utility patent protection on Feb 6, 2009. Reelstrong continues to develop patent pending technologies that outdo the last design and feels their present pending patents are now unsurpassable in effectiveness and longevity and intend to prove it through multiple lifetime warranties.
REELSTRONG is a privately held, investor owned manufacturer who's focus on mass production and custom fabrication ensures decades of parts and product support.
IN MEMORY OF
The Beef Jerkey and Crab King!
TOM ROBERTS—Electric Utility Sales/Field Advisor
Tom Roberts was Reelstrong Utility Fleet’s national salesman from 2008 to 2015. Tom was an IBEW lineman for 40 years working for companies like Henkels & McCoy, Goldhorn Electrical Construction, The City of Rock Hill South Carolina and Amtrak. He came out of retirement to help Reelstrong get off the ground in the middle of the Great Recession. Tom was renowned for his unique salesmanship methods such as spending days on the Delaware Bay fishing for crabs, preparing them and hand-delivering to local utilities and contractors. He was even more famous for his homemade Beef Jerky that left his customers wanting more and wondering just who is this man? Tom always had a story or a joke, but was well known for his honor integrity and straightforward approach to business. What Tom said is what he meant. He was the kind of guy you would want in a foxhole with you and our customers knew it. Tom will forever live in our hearts with the fondest of memory and his legacy of honesty, immense integrity and straightforward business approach is a standard all of us at Reelstrong Utility Fleet will forever follow.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Born to an electrical contractor in 1943, Tom had two lifetimes of experience in the electric power field. Following an honorable discharge from the Air Force in Biloxi MS Tom started working distribution for the city of Rock Hill South Carolina. In search of a more rugged lifestyle, he tackled the swamps of North Carolina to work transmission lines. After a tough stint in the swamps and being exposed to many custom and unique machine designs for swamp construction Tom moved to PA to be closer to his family and work the power lines of the Northeast in 1968. Soon after, he was endorsed by Amtrak as the safety training & rigging coordinator to develop educational material to teach linemen safety, CPR and troubleshooting. He then took a 5 day temporary job for Goldhorn Electrical Construction that wound up lasting 20 years and in 1976 received the Life-Savers Medal from Liberty Mutual. Tom’s focus on safety and custom machine design was an integral part of his interest in working at Reelstrong.
Seeking a new adventure Tom bought a farm in VA that needed a little work. Loving a challenge he rolled up his sleeves, fixed it up, built an airplane runway out of 10 cornrows, learned how to fly a Cessna, crashed it and survived. Laughing it off he retired his pilot aspirations and sought a safer venture when Tom Goldhorn introduced him to Reelstrong. At the time, founder Noel Smith had a prototype and a dream yet was in need of someone with real powerline field experience as Noel came from the Mechanical Contracting and Millwrighting field. Tom’s expertise and advise was the cornerstone of Reelstrong designs and we are forever grateful to Tom.
"Tom was one of the most respected linemen in the industry and words can’t express how proud I am to say Tom Roberts and Reelstrong in the same sentence. His genuine approach to sales was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Tom was a true gentleman and while I can never walk in a great man’s footsteps I promise to withhold every standard that he set for Reelstrong now and forever."
—Noel C. Smith, Founder REELSTRONG UTILITY FLEET
NOEL C. SMITH—President / Lead Inventor
Born and raised in Lancaster County, PA, Noel's strong farm background, work ethic, fabrication experience and unique work history is the catalyst to the REELSTRONG concept.
After witnessing two fatal industrial accidents and coming severely close himself in 1995, Noel has an authentic appreciation for the safety 1st mindset. Noel started his career in industrial design and millwrighting in 1992. He's D.1.1. welding certified and lead specialized millwrighting and fabrication teams at Cabot Supermetals and other high-tech industrial environments where safety had to come first.
Noel designed, fabricated and installed expansive line segments for Kellogg's, M&M Mars, Alcoa, Lukens Steel, Johnson Matthey, Merck, Cabot Supermetals and municipal waste water plants (accident sites have not been mentioned). His background as a millwright and a specialized fabricator complimented with an education in business development and advertising is the backbone of Reelstrong. Noel is the lead inventor of all proprietary designs, manages all engineering and is the company Senior Sales Engineer.