A Coquitlam-based business is vying for a chance to show off its horizontal directional drilling skills in Kentucky next month but needs more votes to get there.
Reached three metres underneath a sidewalk at Robson and Richards streets in downtown Vancouver, Chuck Ulmer of Ulmer Contracting said while there are thousands of companies throughout North America that perform directional drilling, not many specialize in it.
"We're one of the few companies that do," Ulmer said. "We've put pipe where you can't believe you could put pipe."
Ulmer started the company 30 years ago, when the work was done by hand with crews crawling into tunnels to dig out material with a shovel. The work changed significantly when directional drilling machines came on the market about 10 years ago.
Heavy equipment manufacturer Vermeer BC launched the Ultimate Crew contest to shine a spotlight on the skills of directional drillers; Ulmer Contracting is one of eight finalists, and the only Canadian company, to be in the running for the title.
Finalists with the most votes will get a free trip to the International Construction and Utility Equipment Exposition in Kentucky next month to compete in a skills competition at the Vermeer booth. The crew that demonstrates "superior drill skills, strength and endurance" will be crowned the Ultimate Crew and will get to use a new Vermeer D24x40 Series II drill for a year.
Ulmer's crew works on projects for municipalities throughout the Lower Mainland, where the biggest challenge is often changing ground conditions and navigating around a complex network of existing utilities.
"Most of it is working together," Ulmer said. "It's pretty dangerous if you don't know the people…It's another job that looks easy but when you go to do it, it's heavy work, it's dirty work. You can get hurt pretty seriously with the power of these rigs."
Ulmer applauded the skills of his crew and the company's commitment to customer service.
"The job has to be done absolutely right," he said, noting crews have to get the work done within the smallest footprint possible, particularly in a busy area like downtown Vancouver.
"We drop under the sidewalk, put a steel plate over top and people walk over top of us while we're working. That's what it's all about now… We can't inconvenience Joe Public, they have to get their Starbucks.
"It matters that I make money but it's not the absolute end-all and be-all," he said. "We have to provide a service to these clients, and I look after them."
• To see profile videos of Ulmer Contracting and the other finalists, and to vote by Aug. 30, visit www.navigatornation.com/contest/ultimate-crew