Where there's a will ...

By Vern McClelland

July 13, 2016 12:48 PM

I don’t usually take much time off from my real estate practice during the summer, but this year we had a rather important project to be completed on the ranch so with the support of my colleagues on the team, I spent the first week of July out of the office.
As a risk mitigation measure we wanted to bring a second water well on as a backup supply to the livestock waterers where our cows are wintered.
Unfortunately, water is not everywhere in the country and the new site that eventually proved up is 1,600-ft from the manifold system in the pumphouse.
Our land has decent topsoil but underneath it is mostly sand with a little bit of clay mixed in.
Combined with the wet conditions of late it made every step of this undertaking a challenge.
It required someone adjacent to the 8-ft deep trench to immediately roll in the waterline and pump cable before the sidewalls slumped; five to six feet at a time.
A number of years ago when working on another waterline I was accidentally buried up to my thighs by a collapsing trench.
The backhoe operator sent to us by a large contractor was inexperienced and if not for the quick actions of my son in directing a recover I might not be writing this column today.
We are fortunate to have Jeff Watt as a neighbour.
He is one of the best backhoe operators you will find anywhere; calm and proficient combined with a strong work ethic and a great sense of humour.
Jeff moved into management at his employer a number of years ago but with the consolidation of several companies into one and consequent “right sizing,” he found himself without a job late last year.
His friends, family and, most importantly, former clients all encouraged him to start his own earthworks business.
When I saw a backhoe parked in his yard this spring I called him and asked if he would be willing to work with us in this project.
As it turned out this same week we had a mobile welder, Kris Malekoff, in the yard fabricating 20-ft corral panels for us from a stock pile of rod and seemingly happy to do so between the demands of other short term contracts.
He used to work 70 hour weeks chasing rigs with one fulltime employee.
Today, like so many other small business owners in the region, it’s just him.
Earlier this summer we had another welder (and in the interest of full disclosure, my nephew), Jon Schempp, design and build a truck mounted feedbox for pellets and rolled grain in his shop at half the price of similar ones from Manitoba.
Two years ago it simply wouldn’t have been possible or financially feasible to secure this kind of specialized talent as farmers and ranchers could not match what the oilpatch had to offer.
There are many like Jeff, Kris, and Jon in the Midwest.
Highly skilled men and women who,  through no fault of their own, have been hit hard by the realities of the current economy.
They have families, houses, and like everyone, bills to pay.
Hard work, poor weather, or long days don’t scare them.
Businesses need to hire enterprising folk like these three when and where they can. If this pool of talent leaves the area, they will likely never be back and our communities will be poorer for it.
If you want their phone numbers, just call me.
I would be happy to share.
And no, I don’t get a kickback for my referrals!
Vern McClelland is an associate broker with RE/MAX of Lloydminster. He can be reached at (780) 808-2700, through www.vernmcclelland.com or by following the Midwest Group Lloydminster on Facebook.

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