Helping a partner weather the storm

(Photo credit: Pat Newell)

For those of us who live here, it’s an inconvenient truth: Wyoming’s economy is prone to boom and bust cycles. It’s a great place to live, a perfect place to raise a family and an awesome place to fish. But the fact is that Wyoming rides the energy wave. Most recently, we’ve seen booms and busts in oil, gas, coal, and wind energy. It’s the Wyoming way, it’s what we do.

The latest bust hit Wyoming a few years back, and we all felt it. Many people lost their jobs. Companies moved out. Families relocated, and communities suffered. One Wyoming energy services company, R&M Welding, was hard hit by the downturn in natural gas prices and was forced to close its eastern Wyoming shop.

But in western Wyoming, R&M teamed up with conservation groups to weather the economic storm. Seedskadee Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Muley Fanatic Foundation needed a way to protect important riparian areas and aspen stands for a few years to give the woody plants a chance to grow and become established. They needed a way to protect sensitive riparian areas along a headwaters stream for pure Colorado River cutthroat.

The groups approached R&M Welding in Rock Springs with this fencing challenge: The fence had to be nearly maintenance free, no postholes, easily put up and taken down in the field, and be 6 feet tall. They knew this was no small task, but they also knew R&M was the perfect partner. R&M immediately got to work and designed a bomb proof fence that has exceeded all expectations. Using old pipe donated from local oil and gas operators; Breitburn Operating, Wexpro, Southland and Royalty Company.

They may have created their own niche market. Conservation fencing has become an important product for R&M. They have built 18,700 linear feet of fence out of 770,440 feet of pipe. Word has gotten out; a fence project from Oregon is in the works this winter. Moreover, it’s become a great example of cooperation between the energy services company and local conservation groups. Billy Black the general manager for R&M Welding said. “The fence projects helped keep the shop in Rock Springs open. Becoming a TU Business member was an easy decision.”

Some may think this is an unlikely marriage, a company that relies on the oil and gas industry and conservation organizations. In Wyoming there is a saying….that “good fences make good neighbors”. That’s never been truer than it is in this case. As project leader Nick Walrath says, “We look forward to working with R&M for a long time to come. They’re the real deal.”

By Walt Gasson.