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BOOMTOWN: Local companies tied health of industry

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Posted: Monday, March 12, 2012 12:00 am

Buddy McDonald knows a thing or two about oilfield anchors.

Walking around the floor where his employees work, the owner of Bulldog Safety Anchors watches as three different men attend to their duties, which involve cutting steel rods into lengths of six and eight feet, bending one of the tips of the rods into a closed shape, welding them shut and then painting the tops a bright yellow to stand out against the ground. Another employee works a forklift outside and lifts pallets of anchors on a flat-bed trailer that will deliver the cargo to a company in Oklahoma.

In the 10 years since his shop fist opened, McDonald said the number of anchors his company makes both on a daily and monthly average has grown more than he could ever expect.

(When I started) we’d make 500 a month,” McDonald said. “Now we’re doing about 4,000.”

Anchors are used by oil companies to hold up oil rigs similar to how stakes hold up a tent. McDonald said the standard set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for anchors is 23,000 pounds, but his anchors test at a higher standard. Making three different types of anchors, McDonald’s biggest anchor — The Big Dog — is tested at around 58,000 pounds while the smaller anchor — The Runt — is tested around 31,000 pounds.

McDonald’s company, like many oilfield-related businesses, is seeing an increase in customers, and workers, as the demand for crude oil rises worldwide. Originally starting out with three employees, Bulldog Safety employs five workers as well as an office staff.

For the Permian Basin, the heartbeat of the economy depends on the price of a barrel of oil.

Right now, the high demand in oilfield work gives potential employees the opportunity to pick and choose where they want to work, something that could be envious in other local economies.

If you put an ad in the paper, maybe five people apply in a week,” Steve Herriage, owner of Permian Anchors said. “I would say in 1998, you’d get about 10 a day.”

Despite workers getting the opportunity to pick and choose their future place of employment, many local businesses have customers both stateside and worldwide.

McDonald, who said he has been working in the oil industry most of his adult life, started his anchor making business in Odessa. From his seemingly hidden shop off of Interstate 20, he said he has customers ranging from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania.

The success though, McDonald said, was unexpected.

“I had no idea we would ever get to this point,” he said.

Herriage said he has also seen an increase in the amount of work his business has been doing.

Besides manufacturing anchors, Herriage’s company also installs them. On a average, Herriage said his company visits between 40 to 50 oil rigs a day.

“When we started out (in 1994), it was basically, one salesman, one girl in the office and three trucks,” Herriage said about his first oil-related business. “Now we probably have 20, maybe 25 employees.”

Herriage said Permian Anchors covers Pecos, Big Spring and even in Hobbs, N.M. Some of the company vehicles can average up to 240 miles in a single day’s work.

But one local company may have more miles to cover than any other.

Sivalls, Inc., also getting its start in Odessa, is a success story in its own league.

Getting its start in 1947, Dick Sivalls, president of the company, said he has seen his father’s business go from the shop at 2200 East Second Street to a worldwide name.

“It makes us feel good to be recognized around the world,” Sivalls, who took over the company in 1974, said. “In the areas we’re doing a lot of business, we’re being recognized.”

Making oilfield equipment that ranges from treaters, to gas treating equipment, Sivalls, Inc. also has manufacturing plants in Brownwood and Pampa. Sales companies are also located in Casper, Wyo., Vernal, Utah, and Williston, N.D.

Sivalls, Inc. said he sells parts to companies in South America, Canada and to privatized companies in Russia around the Caspian Sea.

But with the success of oil boom, also comes the risk of bust.

 “It goes up quick and it goes down quick,” Sivalls said. “We have to be able to react, but you can’t always react in the flash of an eye.”

Sivalls said after the two year boom that started in 1980, production began to slow down and several different companies began to stop drilling. Because drill can stop at almost anytime, Sivalls said his company has to be careful in making sure they don’t order too much stock. He also said it’s hard when hiring new employees, as training can take anywhere between two to six months.

Despite the risks, Sivalls said his company is ready in case things begin to slow down, though he doesn’t expect it anytime soon.

“No one thinks it can happen suddenly,” Sivalls said. “But it can happen quickly.”


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