Family-Run Company Keeps Focus on Customers

Well-drilling company has stayed steady over 58 years, fighting off economy woes and drought.
Family-Run Company Keeps Focus on Customers
Tom Benedict

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Being a well driller in a state where there has been a drought for several years can be a tough task. While many well drillers throughout Nevada have shut their doors because of the economy woes and the drought, the owners of W.M. Blain Well Drill & Pump in Carson City, Nevada, have been going strong.

Founded in 1958 by William and Wanda Blain, the company is still at work today under the ownership of Wanda’s son, Tom Benedict, and his wife, Susan.

“After working on and off here when I was younger and trying not to be involved with the company that my mom and stepfather owned, I finally came back in 1995,” says Tom.

The company now serves most of Nevada and California.

Q: What do you see happening in the business now?

A: We are incredibly busy. We are booked up for many weeks in advance for drilling. It is a very good time right now, but when the economy was down because of the downturn in the stock market, business was slow. There was no new construction going on and it was a struggle. We did a lot of service work like cleaning out and pump work. We serviced a lot of existing wells.

Q: Who are your customers?

A: Primarily residential. The majority are here in Nevada and then some in California. New construction is booming right now, but we know that could be short-term because it goes in cycles. You get real busy and things catch up and slow way down. Our service work is very consistent. A lot of older wells are being replaced and some are being deepened now because of the drought our state has had. A large part of our business is drilling and there are only a couple of drilling companies left here.

Q: Do you recommend water testing?

A: I leave that up to the customer. On a new well people like to see what they have. With a new well it takes months to settle in. Our state does not have water requirements for domestic use when it comes to quality. California tests every well for water quality, but in Nevada we do not do that, it’s all up to the customer. However, Nevada is much stricter than California as far as drilling and the sanitary seals and water rights. Some of the other companies in our area do more well testing than we do, but that is because we are so busy with other things.

Q: What kind of licensing is required in Nevada?

A: We have to do a minimum of eight hours continuing education every year. It is a state requirement to renew a driller’s license. You have to also be a Nevada State Contractor to run the business. My licensed drillers renew every year. I don’t care how many years you have done this, you will always learn something new.

Q: What about the Nevada Legislature’s Subcommittee to Study Water and a bill coming up in 2017 regarding water wells?

A: I was getting lots of calls and emails about that in August. I called the State Division of Water Resources and it was explained that in two areas of southern Nevada they had some concerns regarding cutting back on water usage. They were trying to come up with a plan where they would have control over domestic wells. They don’t have any control right now over domestic water. If they were to pass a rule like this it would be statewide, and that is what got people upset.

Q: What are the conditions in water that you see?

A: As to quality, generally water in Nevada is totally potable. There are some levels of arsenic, which is a concern in some areas. We see iron, hard water and manganese in the water here. When we do drilling we see all different kinds of conditions form hard rock to clays, sands and volcanic rock. We have just about every variety you can think of.

Q: Are there special tools that are essential?

A: You need a well rig and a pump setter. We work with a lot of pump manufacturers, both centrifugal and submersible pumps. We buy from Goulds, Grundfos, Franklin, to name a few.

Q: What are some typical problems with wells?

A: Electrical problems with the pumps or something causing the pump not to work. Most are fixable problems. We see a lot of wells with depleted resources. We find wells that need to be deepened and a lot need to be replaced. That is ongoing and makes for a busy time.

Q: Is your company open 24/7 to handle emergencies?

A: We are not. With five employees we don’t have a crew for that. We basically are six days a week. If I get a call on our off hours, I will tell the caller when we can get to them or I will try to help over the phone if I can talk them through a scenario where they can fix it themselves. I will also refer them to someone else. The well contractors here all work together; we’re a pretty tight bunch.

Q: Do you do anything special to promote the company?

A: We have been here since 1958. We are established and the name has been here for a long time. We have a good reputation and I have a great crew. My well driller has been with me for over 15 years. We stay busy all the time.

Q: Your mother was a well driller also, what was her experience in the industry?

A: My mother was a bookkeeper until she married Bill Blain. She was not about to let her husband be the only well driller in the family. She applied for her own license in 1978. Even a disappointing rejection from the Contractor’s Board did not stop her. Although the board did not feel confident in her skills, Nevada Gov. Mike O’Callaghan did, and made her the first licensed woman well driller in the state. She loved being a woman in a man’s world, and loved the challenges, although she never spent a day out there drilling a well. She ran the company.

Q: What do you see for the future of the industry?

A: I think we will see steady growth. I don’t think the boom we are in now is going to last as far as new construction goes. It could stop next year.

Q: Do you expect to see many new homes being built where there is not city water?

A: I do, but city water is expanding. They are constantly expanding municipal water systems. That trend will continue.



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