The extent of residential drilling work, improving recruiting practices and a Feb.-themed tale are the subjects of this month's "For Openers" column.

Residential vs. Commercial

A recent National Driller Web poll (www.drilleronline.com) asked, “What percentage of your business is residential as opposed to commercial/industrial/institutional?” Here's how the numbers break down:

% Residential Work -- % Respondents

1-10 percent -- 14%
11-20 percent -- 3%
21-30 percent -- 6%
31-40 percent -- 4%
41-50 percent -- 3%
51-60 percent -- 8%
61-70 percent -- 10%
71-80 percent -- 13%
81-90 percent -- 16%
91-100 percent -- 23%

That means that residential projects account for at least 50 percent of the work performed by 70 percent of contractors out there. Conversely, only 30 percent of contractors tell us that the majority of the work they do is commercial/ind-ustrial/institutional. We'll be repeating that survey on a regular basis to see how the numbers move. Most signs point to a trend toward non-residential market growth. Just how much so is an interesting issue. Drilling contractor Rick Tompkins is his firm in position to respond to that very trend. You can meet Rick in a feature article in this issue.

Brush Up on Your Recruiting

As the economy comes around and business picks up, an increasing number of drilling contactors will be contemplating expansion. The first bump in the road, of course, is the seemingly decades-long quandary of where to find quality employees. Forward-thinking contractors, in an effort to stay on the lead side of the curve, are finding ways to get beyond “shows up - on time and sober” as a minimum requirement of employment. It's no easy task and requires a true investment of valuable resources, but it's worth it.

As a general economic indicator, it's good that unemployment is down, but analysts are quick to point out that even though the unemployed numbers are headed in the right direction, the number of jobs added has been lower than most had anticipated or hoped for. People are beginning to come to the realization that it's not 1998 any longer. Many fortunes were made and the gravy train roared along, but the big boon had a very weak foundation - mostly ether and the cheap plastic of computer keyboards. A good many of those lost jobs contributed nothing tangible; they weren't replaced because there really wasn't anything there in the first place. They weren't so much lost jobs as they were jobs that probably shouldn't even have existed.

It's a new world out there. After the dot.com collapse and world and economic events of late, there are a lot of people who would find a career in an industry that quite literally has its feet on the ground, offers a great deal of independence and produces a tangible and valuable service to be quite attractive.

Good Deed of the Month

Don't forget that Saturday, Feb. 14, is Valentine's Day. If you've ever forgotten about that little calendar item in the past, you know how valuable this reminder is. Two Christmases ago, my friend Eddie was furious with his wife because she bought herself a new $1,200 reclining massage sofa for the den “as a gift from Santa.” Fifty-one days later, when his Valentine-related memory lapse was brought to his attention - in a most excruciatingly severe manner, mind you - he quickly changed his tune. He truly appreciated the relaxing comfort provided by his subsequently imposed sleeping arrangements. ND