Editor Greg Ettling discusses the results of some recently conducted industry polls.

The hard-working people in our market research department have been at it again of late, cranking out the reports at a breakneck pace. When they took a brief pause to ice down their calculators, they shared with us a few items to pass along to the industry.

Market Growth

We asked drilling contractors, “Compared to last year, do you expect the residential drilling market in your area to expand, decline or stay the same?” Nearly half of the respondents (48%) said that they were expecting some type of expansion to occur. The rest of those who took part in the poll were evenly split between “decline” and “stay the same” at 26 percent each.

We did the exact same thing with regard to the non-residential - or commercial/industrial/institutional - market. We asked drillers whether the market in their area would be going up, down or sideways. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they expect things to stay the same; 37 percent said the market will expand; and 15 percent are expecting a decline. While the upside outlook camp is smaller compared to that on the residential side, the percentage predicting a decline was less, as well.

While you can take these numbers and results any number of ways, regular readers of this column will not be surprised to hear that we're looking on the bright side. On the residential side, it was nice to see that the runaway number one answer was “expand.” On the commercial/industrial/institutional side, “expanders” outnumbered “decliners” by a margin of nearly 2.5 to 1.

Help Wanted

Another recent poll inquired whether drilling contracting firms were planning on adding employees, downsizing or staying the same size this year. The encouraging results: A full 56 percent of respondents said they will be adding employees; nearly a third (31%) said that they would be staying the same size; and only 13 percent plan to release employees.

The good news here, given the current condition of the labor market, is that 87 percent of the respondents had enough confidence that they could indeed recruit, hire and train new employees, and keep the ones they already have on board. Not so long ago, it seemed as though contractors were pretty much resigned to the fact that they probably wouldn't be able to find a competent individual if they wanted one. These numbers are a sign - albeit a small one - of better things to come with the labor situation.

A separate but related survey asked drilling contractors, “How many employees do you currently employ at the height of your season?” The results:

1 employee - 16 percent
2-3 employees - 35 percent
4-5 employees - 18 percent
6-10 employees - 18 percent
10+ employees - 13 percent

The Area Code Flap

Back in your April issue ofNational Driller, I mentioned a Web site that offered a good, downloadable area code map and reference chart. As perhaps only my luck would have it, the recommended site went down about an hour-and-a-half after that issue hit the street. Thanks to all the contractors who let us know about the problem - enough people were calling and E-mailing, we made a form letter to speed up the acknowledgement process. We apologize to those who were inconvenienced and to make amends, we're including chart in this issue that you can use. We won't be able to run it again anytime soon so keep it handy for future reference when you're wondering, “Just where the heck is area code 698?”