Jim Lee, Auger Boring Guru: Industry Profile

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | November 2012, Vol. 67, No. 11
Jim Lee (left) talks auger boring specifics.

While with Fornea Road Boring, Lee’s skill stood out; he had the “feel” for what was happening under the ground and seemed instinctively to know what to do when something unexpected happened. Auger boring is a specialized field and those in it know others in the business. Lee’s reputation for expertise spread and demand grew for his advice about making boring installations.

Jim Lee demonstrates the operation of a large auger boring machine.

“This industry is made up of good people who have a lot in common,” Lee says. “We respect each other, and we help one another whenever we can. Through those years, I learned from others and learned about other brands of boring machines in addition to those we operated. I never said anything bad about anyone or about the equipment they had.”

Lee has seen many changes in auger boring equipment.

“Compared to machines when I got started,” he said, “today’s models are easier to use, make much longer bores, and have features that allow them to compete with other types of trenchless equipment. Jobs that not long ago would require microtunneling can be done much more economically by today’s auger boring machines.”

In his time as a contractor, Lee also became involved in horizontal directional drilling (HDD), and he gained knowledge of other methods of underground construction, including the use of drilling fluids. However, his niche always remained in auger boring.

Moving on

Following the death of the owner of the contracting company where he worked and changes in the organization that followed, Lee concluded it was time to move on.

“There were several opportunities open,” he says, “and I chose American Augers. At first I was a district support manager and I went everywhere, not only boring jobs, but HDD jobs, too. Later I was shifted back to concentrate primarily on auger boring.”

Currently Lee averages 40 weeks of the year on the road.

“When Jimmy arrives at a job site, he takes charge to solve whatever prompted the call for help,” says Hoffman. “Jimmy’s not very big -- maybe 5 (foot), 9 (inches) --but he’s a whirlwind of activity. His energy, expertise and work ethic bring respect. Jimmy loves and respects equipment, and I believe he retains a sense of ‘ownership’ in every American Augers machine, even after it’s been sold. And he can’t stand to see a machine abused or neglected. If he finds a boring rig that obviously hasn’t been maintained or is in need of repair, the crew and maybe the company’s owner will hear about it.”