Succession done well
By Treena Hein
Integrity and hard work key to Lousana’s success.
By Treena Hein
Carrying on a tradition of excellence and reliability is what drives the
owners of Lousana Water Wells (1987) Ltd., located in small hamlet of
Lousana, 55 kilometres southeast of Red Deer, Alta.
Carrying on a tradition of excellence and reliability is what drives the owners of Lousana Water Wells (1987) Ltd., located in small hamlet of Lousana, 55 kilometres southeast of Red Deer, Alta. “There have been water well drillers in Lousana for over 90 years and our family-owned business will be celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2014,” says Miles Lewis, who owns the company with his wife Becky.
|Miles Lewis, owner of Lousana Water Wells, has carried on the well-respected name of the family-owned company. All photos courtesy of Lousana Water Wells|
Maurice Lewis, Miles’ father, started the company in 1964 with the purchase of his first drilling rig (a cable tool). “A couple of years later, my dad expanded his holdings, leasing some additional equipment from a local well driller named Ted Green,” says Miles. Ted had been operating in Lousana since the early 1920s, drilling wells for farms and residences. After two years of leasing, Maurice purchased the remainder of Ted’s equipment and renamed the company Lousana Water Wells.
| Besides drilling and servicing water|
wells, Lousana Water Wells also does an extensive amount of water well
flow testing business, using a service truck equipped with a pump reel
and power supply.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Maurice and his right-hand man, Ron Craig, did an extensive amount of contract drilling for light industrial, municipal, and government agencies throughout Alberta; from Fort McMurray to Cardston to Cadomin, and numerous places in-between. “They used cable tool rigs for well drilling until 1974, when Dad purchased his first rotary drill rig,” says Miles. “This type of drilling allowed wells to be completed in a shorter time frame.”
In the early ’70s, there was enough local work to allow the company’s focus to shift back to residential and farm wells, where it has remained right through to today. It was also during this time that Miles started working during summer holidays for his father, and in July 1979, after graduating high school, Miles started full time. Two years later, Miles completed his apprenticeship and became a journeyman water well driller.
Miles and Becky purchased the business from Miles’ parents, Maurice and Diane, then renamed it Lousana Water Wells (1987) Ltd. “The sale of the company marked the start of Dad’s new career in municipal politics,” Miles notes. “He was a councillor for the county of Red Deer for 15 years, and held the position of Reeve for 10 of those years.” Maurice retired in the fall of 2001.
| Lousana employees, shown left setting up a|
Failing 1250 rotary drill rig, and above, running a test pump for a
water well, have helped Miles Lewis continue the success of the company.
“Although his new career kept him busy, he was always available to offer his well-drilling expertise and advice when needed,” Miles adds.
With the turn of the millennium, Lousana Water Wells went through a few difficult years, first with the sudden loss of Maurice in December 2001, and then two and a half years later, with the loss of Ron to ALS. Ron had been with Lousana Water Wells for nearly 35 years. While their mentorship has been missed, Lousana Water Wells has continued to carry on their legacy.
When asked to reflect on Maurice’s involvement in the industry, Miles focuses on his father’s overall enthusiasm. “He took all of his jobs seriously, but he had a passion for the water well industry,” he says. “Dad contributed to the development of the Alberta Water Well Apprenticeship program at Red Deer College in 1978 and continued to contribute through his roles as program co-ordinator and part-time instructor.” Maurice also served a long time with both the Alberta Water Well Drilling Association and the Canadian Ground Water Association (CGWA), holding every position in both organizations. “In later years, he became executive officer of the CGWA and hired my sister, Gayle Woollard, to help with the secretarial duties,” says Miles. “He held this position at the time of his passing.”
One of Maurice’s other notable contributions to the water well industry was his involvement with the investigation and research of breathing wells and the dangers they present. He was working with several individuals on this phenomenon at the time of his passing. In his memory, the family established the CGWA Ground Water Research Foundation. With the help of Roger Clissold from Hydrogeological Consultants Ltd., Fact Sheet #5, The Hidden Danger in Water Well Pits, was written, published and distributed throughout Canada by the CGWA.
Inside the business
As is the case with most family businesses, each member of the current Lewis family has had a part in helping with the success of the company. In addition to Miles’ work in the field, he and Becky have worked side by side in the office for 24 years. “Throughout the years, our daughters Erin (23) and Jena (18) have helped with office duties, inventory, and yard work,” adds Miles.
|Lewis notes the entire staff, including three journeymen and one apprentice, is actively involved in the community as well as the business.|
“The girls are no longer directly involved with the company, as Erin has her own career in mechanical engineering and Jena is working on a degree in neuroscience, but both of them are still able to offer valuable computer and ‘tech support’ when needed.”
Lousana Water Wells has also been fortunate in being able to hire local, knowledgeable and dedicated staff, which Miles considers a critical aspect in any business’s success. “We currently have three journeymen drillers and one apprentice,” he says. “The entire staff is actively involved in the surrounding community helping organizations such as the local Hall Board, AG Society, rodeo committee, 4-H, and minor hockey.”
Over the years, Miles has observed safety coming to the forefront in all industries, and water well drilling is no exception. “We take it very seriously, he says. “Our staff members have obtained numerous safety certificates including those for confined space, first aid, H2S Alive, fall arrest, WHMIS and Fire Extinguisher Safety. We’re also fortunate that my sister, Wendy Glover, is a health and safety consultant, and having grown up in the industry, was able to contribute to our safety program.”
| Although the turn of the millennium brought obstacles to the company, Miles Lewis is confident the future of Lousana Water Wells is a bright one.|
In addition to the drilling and servicing of domestic and farm water wells complete with pumps and pressure systems, Lousana Water Wells also does an extensive amount of water well flow testing business for the oil, gas, and seismic industries. For this part of their operations, which takes staff to all corners of Alberta, they have a service truck set up with a pump reel and power supply. “For the drilling side of things, we currently operate with two rotary drill rigs (Failing 1250s) and a cable tool rig (a Bucyrus Erie-22W),” notes Miles. “The cable tool is only used for work where this particular method would be advantageous.” Two pump hoists are available for the servicing and installation of pumps and pressure systems.
One of the biggest challenges the company has faced over the years is keeping business at a manageable level while the economy fluctuates. “We’ve seen three major boom-and-bust cycles in the economy since 1987,” Miles remarks, “and while we strive to maintain our workforce at an adequate level when the economy is booming, we also work to prevent having to let go of anyone when the economy slows.”
Miles feels the greatest issue facing the ground water industry in Alberta today is the sometimes excessive use of rural water pipelines and water co-ops. “These projects have been pushed through, in some cases, with little regard to their overall economics,” he observes. “In some of these areas, the ground water is a viable and adequate resource, but the municipalities are still proceeding with pipelines. I feel all levels of government should be doing more research on the practicality of a project, rather than simply supplying funding. I have no issues with pipelines where ground water is not readily available.”
As Lousana Water Wells moves forward into a new decade, Miles is confident his father’s values will continue to be respected and honoured. “Dad was a very focused man, who believed in doing things right,” he says. “In combination with his drive for success, he taught me the value of working hard, with integrity and pride. These are values that will help carry Lousana Water Wells forth into the future.”