Polar opposite

By Robert Carpenter, Editor | June 2009 Vol. 64 No. 6

This issue contains the 2009 edition of Underground Construction’s annual horizontal directional drilling survey. This industry-exclusive research always provides an insightful perspective as to the direction and health of this vibrant young industry.

As we reached the halfway point of 2009, I assumed most of the survey comments would be tempered heavily by recession influences, and that attitudes and mind-sets would be equally tempered by dismal economic conditions. I remembered the HDD survey responses in 2002 - 2004 were downright depressing, full of dire predictions and bleak outlooks as to the future of the young industry.

Indeed, it was a time of fundamental change for the HDD industry which contracted to almost half its former size before the market hit bottom. But that change brought new directions and opportunities for those who survived.

That was not lost on the HDD survey respondents this year. Though there were a plethora of concerns and challenges facing the industry – foremost being the economy – most contractors portrayed an attitude of “we’ll survive, the future is still bright and HDD will continue to expand.”

From Texas (“the field is wide open”) to Tennessee (“excellent”) to New York (“ever increasing demand”) to the Midwest (“market is down but already showing signs of improvement”) to the West Coast (“very positive”), the bulk of the survey respondents believe the HDD market is well-positioned to ride out the current recession and continue its diverse and robust growth pattern for many years to come.

I was reminded by how much this industry has matured since the telecom boom/bust. Diversity is now the rule and opportunities abound. I found this brief statement from a Southeast contractor very telling: “We’re just getting started!” The report begins on page XX.


We’re also starting a new ongoing HDD feature on how to improve your bottom line or “rigonomics” as I like to describe it. This month’s topic is an often overlooked tool. A centralizer, when added to the bottom hole assembly and used correctly, provides several benefits that lower the overall cost per foot of an installation. From time to time, we’ll continue to discuss paths to profitability for HDD. Also, at the Underground Construction Technology Conference next January in Tampa, rigonomics will play a large and essential part of the program.

Retired but not forgotten

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