Bruce Leigh’s company Underground NRG in Okoboji, IA, specializes in dealing with what can’t be seen—underground utility infrastructure. Doing so safely and properly is what has helped to build his company's reputation over time and earned more work for him. Leigh’s company provides pipeline maintenance services to the commercial sector throughout the center of the US, from North Dakota to Texas. Services encompass welding, fabrication, directional drilling, pipeline reroutes, hydrostatic testing, and excavation. Leigh’s equipment lineup includes excavators, skid loaders, air compressors, and lowboys with which employees haul the company’s equipment to job sites. The number of employees with which Leigh provides services varies with the workload required of each specific job. He maintains minimum staffing of five and depending on the job and what is needed, he will bring on up to 20 people. “I do have a welder on staff, but if it’s a job where we need to hire more welders, I will contract those guys out,” points out Leigh. Doosan is Leigh’s equipment of choice. He sources everything from his large DX170LC-5 excavator to air compressors from Doosan and prefers owning equipment to renting.
What Led Him to This Line of Work
Leigh grew up in the construction business. “My father was in this line of work,” he notes. “He was a pipeline welder from way back and he had companies back when I was young. I just started working with him. When I was 12 years old, I’d go out on jobs with him and I have just never looked back.” Leigh has been in business since 2009.
What He Does Day to Day
“I’m in the field all of the time,” he says. “I’m a certified welder, so I do a lot of welding and sometimes when we have a lot of things going on, I operate the excavators and everything else, so I'm pretty hands-on,” he says. Leigh works five 10-hour days to get jobs completed within the established timeline.
What He Likes Best About What He Does
“I love to weld, but I also love the dangers that go with it because we work with all of the products that are highly volatile and flammable under high pressures,” says Leigh of the adrenaline rush he gets from working on the job site. “You have to be on your toes all of the time.” Leigh derives a sense of pride upon the completion of a job. Leigh says he enjoys “hearing our customers and clients appreciate the good work and our company’s good reputation.” When he’s in Tulsa, OK, for job-related meetings, he takes great pride in hearing a new engineer who has come online for work discuss the “great work” that Underground NRG does, notes Leigh.
His Biggest Challenge
As with so many company owners in the industry, finding and retaining qualified employees whose work ethic supports the good reputation Leigh has created for his company over time is his biggest challenge. “It’s just trying to find employees who will work,” he says. “They don’t necessarily have to be qualified because we can train them, but it doesn’t seem like there’s much interest in that either. When I’m looking for somebody, I look all over the United States. I’ll just start calling those guys to work if they’re not busy. You have to pay them a little more money to come in from afar. It seems if people are out of school and looking for a job, they don't want to work. They just show up on the job site and they think they're working. It's crazy.” The qualities Leigh seeks in an employee for his company are “a willingness to learn and work and jump in and learn,” he says. “If they’re green, I don’t mind hiring someone if they’re willing to work and jump in and get their hands dirty, not just standing around with their hands in their pocket, just watching. You’re not going to learn anything doing that.”