The Michigan Ground Water Association’s annual convention saw its 80th year this spring, and the industry marked the milestone in Lansing, Mich., on Mar. 17-18. With a theme of “Celebrating the Past, Looking to the Future,” the event drew industry members from all over the Great Lake state, and approximately 500 contractors, manufacturers and suppliers convened in the state’s capitol.

The schedule for the two-day event was chock-full, complete with business meetings, educational programs, a cocktail hour and celebratory dinner, and the trade show.

The strong slate of educational seminars covered a wide range of subjects. Attendees could expand their knowledge of OSHA and DOT regulations. A presentation on electronic data collection for high-capacity wells was given, as was a course on electrical basics and safety. There was forklift training and certification. A session on business diversification and opportunities in geotechnical drilling was offered, and F. Michael Krautkramer presented the MchElhinney lecture, “How Much Is Enough? Making Decisions in the Water Well Industry.”

New executive director Tom Smith notes, “I think we had a very strong educational program, and the contractors who took advantage of that thought very highly of it. Not only did we do technical programs, we did more business and safety-related programs. We also had an education program that was specific for local health departments and sanitarians. We are trying to attract that group, and give them an opportunity to mingle with the contractors. So I think we’ll continue that.

“We tried to offer more educational programs, and that seemed to be quite successful. So, as we look to next year, I imagine we would have a pretty good focus on adding additional educational opportunities. We are hoping, through the association, to develop a certification program. As part of that, we would anticipate continuing education being a part of the program. So, the education is going to be important.” Certainly, it’s something for attendees to anticipate for next year.

At the annual dinner, awards were handed out. As Smith comments, “The dinner is always a highlight. It’s always fun to recognize and celebrate the industry.” Convention committee members were recognized for their efforts, and honorary members of the association were acknowledged. The Ladies Auxiliary gave out two scholarships. Topping the evening, Susan Gates won the Distinguished Service Award, and Larry Norman took home the Driller of the Year Award.

A robust trade show completed the event. There was a full display of heavy equipment, as well as an assortment of vendors. Smith says, “We had a good mix of exhibitors. I think that was beneficial.” On the trade show floor, contractors could be seen speaking with exhibitors about the products and equipment on display, and catching up with old friends and acquaintances. As is likely the case with many shows this year, the current economy was a subject of many conversations.

Smith mentions that in Michigan, there’s been a number of down years, but that perhaps the atmosphere is changing: “I think there is some level of excitement this year that hasn’t been there in the past, as far as the business climate. We’re hoping that continues. We’re in the midst of some water legislation that can either help our businesses or hurt our businesses. We’re hoping that the language that passes is going to help our businesses, rather than hurt them. I think there is a level of optimism; people still are careful in their predictions, but I’ve heard a lot of people say that this feels like it is going to be a better year.”

Summing up the event, Smith says, “All in all, from my perspective, being new, it being my first year, I was very pleased with the way things went.”