Talking shop at the Stockdale Mine Supply Inc. booth: Gary Lauritzen, Lauritzen Well Drilling, Fremont, Mich., Stockdale's David Hose, and Norm Lauritzen.

The Michigan Ground Water Association (MGWA) hosted its 78th annual convention and trade show in Grand Rapids, Mich., March 28-29. Despite the sluggish state economy, the association held its own: 600 industry members attended the two-day event.

When asked about the show, executive director John Schmitt notes: “We had exactly 600 [attendees] - 333 contractors and their employees, 215 exhibitors, plus non-exhibiting manufacturers and suppliers, and 52 ladies auxiliary, so it came out to exactly 600.”

Searching for treasure.

“We felt that, overall, we had a better retention of attendees than we did in 2005. This year, our numbers weren't up, but we about held our own - we were almost exactly the same. But we definitely had better retention.” Schmitt attributes the greater retention to a successful, slightly different format, in which prize drawings and an auction were added as additional show features and helped to hold people's interest. “And this is in a year when the economy in Michigan is really down the sewer,” Schmitt explains. “We are, I think, dead-last in job creation in 50 states; we are 49th in unemployment. These are really, really tough times economically in the state of Michigan, so we felt pretty good in that respect.”

Sandvik's Wes Vietmeier hosts Larson Well Drilling, L'Anse, Mich.: Krystal, Tyler, Steve and baby Chase.

Show attendees had the opportunity to peruse 75 booths and eight heavy equipment spaces, which included drill rigs as well as an excavator and a drill bit exhibit. In addition to reviewing the extensive trade show floor, contractors could take in seminars on a range of subjects. Fred McAnninch, Rig Doctors, presented the 2006 McElhinney lecture, “The Basic Drill Rig for Your Geology.” Forklift training was available, as were sessions on an industry-related computer program and on meeting state guidelines for yield and pump testing.

YourNational Drillerstaff moderated a panel discussion, “Doing Business in a Changing Economic Environment.” Composed of contractors and a supplier, the panel considered topics such as the importance of knowing the cost of doing business and increasing profitability by identifying profit centers in your business. The audience was invited to ask the panel members questions, and a lively discussion ensued. Panelists included Steven J. Simmons, Ken Simmons Well Drilling, West Branch, Mich.; Charles “Buddy” Sebastian, Sebastian & Sons Well Drilling, Springport, Mich.; Stacy Podjun, Podjun Well Drilling, Fenton, Mich.; and Glenn Jandernoa, Valley Farms Supply, Fowler, Mich.

Touring the trade show floor is a family affair for F.E. Franzel Well Drilling, Mayville, Mich.: Frank, John, Nellie and William Franzel.

Tuesday evening's celebratory dinner was well-received. Those attending the event seized the chance to preview the show floor. The auction contributed to the festivities, and a number of awards were given out. Fred McAnninch received the Distinguished Service Award, and past association president Michael Matteson took home the coveted Driller of the Year award. Two young women, Megan McPhearson, daughter of Steve and Judy McPhearson, McPhearson Well Drilling, White Lake, Mich., and Amanda Hazard, daughter of Randy and Martina Hazard, Hazard Well Drilling, Flint, Mich., won the 2006 MGWA Ladies' Auxiliary scholarships.

Several people were named life members: Ed Zientek, B & Z Well Drilling, Maple City, Mich.; Jerry Fettig, Boyne City, Mich.; Bob Larson, Robert A. Larson Well Drilling, L'Anse, Mich.; and Lloyd Richcreek, Richcreek Well Drilling, Watervliet, Mich.

Peter Langstaff, Langstaff Pump Service, Rudyard, Mich., and William Gregory, WG Sales Associates Inc., Howell, Mich.

Discussing the convention highlights, Schmitt reveals, “I was pleased that we had a decent number of booths. I did talk to a couple guys who were new exhibitors, they said, 'Boy, this is fabulous. We're coming back.' Considering it's really a down year, I guess I would say that was a highlight and the fact that people really seemed to enjoy themselves. The main thing was that we had a better retention rate and exhibitors seemed pleased. We didn't get a lot of gripes and complaints. That was a high point for me.”

Darren Swolley, Paul Wright (Port City Well & Pump Service, Muskegon, Mich.), Rich Clarke, and Joe Parmer (Port City Well & Pump Service) discuss drill rigs at the SIMCO display.

Election Results

Elections had taken place, and the results were announced. “Bryan Brewer, who is our current president, was re-elected to another term,” Schmitt reports. “The first vice-president is going to be Richard Frey. Our second vice-president is Bob Gates. The new secretary will be William Corsaut. Steve McPhearson was re-elected as our treasurer.”

A number of new directors were appointed: Dion Foune, Foune Well Drilling, Paw Paw, Mich.; Greg McCarty, McCarty Well Driling, Buchanan, Mich.; Steve J. Simmons, Ken Simmons Well Drilling, West Branch, Mich.; Vern Coan, C&C Well Drilling, Kalkaska, Mich.; suppliers' director Glenn Jandernoa, Valley Farms Supply, Fowler, Mich.; and manufacturers' director Doug Kirchner, Pentair Water.

Everyone's having a good time at the Preferred Pump and Equipment space: Frank Seeley, Chuck Garvey, Dan Sentel (Gage Well Drilling, St. Helen, Mich.), Terry Herger, and Tim Kirklin (Tim Kirklin Well Drilling, Lapeer, Mich.).

The MGWA also has three new directors at-large: Bob Webb II, A&B Webb Enterprises Inc., Hale, Mich.; Steve Buer, Buer Water Well Drilling, Calendonia, Mich.; and Bob Gates, Gates Drilling Service, Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

The new officers and directors will take office for a one-year term beginning in October.

Todd Alcock (Washtenaw County Health Dept., Ann Arbor, Mich.), Franklin Electric's Daniel Kolath, Dan Ryan (Valley Farms Supply, Quincy, Mich.) and Terry Alcock (Alcock Drilling Inc., Britton, Mich.) visit at the Franklin Electric booth.

Looking Ahead

Summing up his thoughts on the 2006 show, Schmitt reveals, “I think, frankly, the industry is struggling. I think the industry is in one of those times when great changes are taking place, and oftentimes, change is painful. Are we going to perish from the earth quickly? I don't think so. But it's a time of challenge. In that respect, the overall picture is that we did pretty well. People had a good time. In a challenging time, we can say we did pretty well.”

The industry can look forward to another well-run MGWA convention next year in Grand Rapids, Mich., March 20-21, 2007.