Appalachian Basin

Utica Shale Provides Big Boost for Ohio’s Surveying Industry

As many business owners are aware, the economic downturn of the past few years has led to some difficult choices for many companies, leaving many employees  faced with the prospect of layoffs, pay cuts, benefit reductions and more. For my firm, David Bodo & Associates, Inc., the situation was unfortunately very similar.

My father started this business back in 1980. As a full service surveying company, we have been working in the oil and gas industry for more than 30 years. In that time, we’ve staked and platted over 5,000 oil and gas wells across the state of Ohio.

About two years ago, we saw the bottom drop out of the surveying industry. We lost most of our business and even had to lay off a few staff members — folks who were family to us.  At one point, I thought I might even have to lay off our mascot (picture below). We were facing some difficult decisions about the future of our company. And that’s when Utica Shale development began.

Our mascot Utica Shale Bodo

As Ohio began its mission for energy independence, we immediately saw new opportunities for growth and development in our business. We hired new staff to keep up with demand, going from one field crew to four almost overnight. We also went from two draftsmen to five full-time and two part-time draftsmen.  As a result of the Utica Shale , we invested in new computers, including two laptops for field crews and three high-end desk tops for in-house work stations.

Additionally, we now utilize a state-of-the-art instrument called a Robotic Total Station, also known as a “robot” in the surveying industry.   This nifty gadget follows us around in the field allowing us to streamline our on-site activities, such as transportation and setting of surveying equipment and recording coordinates data.   Our new high precision GPS equipment helps us work faster and more efficiently while achieving a higher level of accuracy as well.

During all our years in this line of work, this is the fastest and most significant uptick in business we’ve ever witnessed. At an otherwise difficult time for our state and national economy, we’ve nearly tripled our staff size over the past three years — going from 5 to 14 folks, while also re-investing in our business.  All of this is a direct result of Utica Shale development creating a consistent work flow for our company.

As surveyors, we’re involved in the early stages of the oil and gas process so our business was seeing the positive effects much earlier than some other industries. Now, we are seeing other growth and development in the area. The effect of this economic growth is now being noticed in schools, businesses and elsewhere throughout the community. We’re also seeing an uptick in other aspects of our business unrelated to the oil and gas industry, which is likely an indication of more disposable income in the area.

As a result of these successes, we’ve gone from using tape measures and compasses to using robotic total stations and GPS with air photos and computers in our work vehicles.  The progress has been amazing to witness and we are proud to have played a small part in leading that charge – developing a lot of great relationships and creating a number of good-paying jobs in the process. Here we are at the 2011 Canton Oilfield Expo:

The opportunities created by responsible shale development have been exciting for our company and the surveying industry as a whole. Across the country, the surveying industry has  declining by 50 percent over the past couple years , not only in the number of companies but the number of employees as well. But not here in Ohio.  Thanks to the Utica, our business is steadily growing. For us David Bodo & Associates, Inc. we’re always looking at ways to expand our company to meet the needs of this growing industry, and we definitely see the safe and responsible development of the Utica Shale as a positive opportunity.

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