April 2024 Vol. 79 No. 4

Editor's Log

Editor’s Log: And the smiles never stopped

By Robert Carpenter, Editor-in-Chief 

(UI) — In late March, I returned from a successful Underground Infrastructure Conference. Per usual, I gathered a wealth of information and market intel from remarkable speakers and experts in a variety of fields including sewer installation and rehabilitation, fiber optic, power, horizontal directional drilling and safety. Further, those highly beneficial discussions were combined with technology and exhibits ranging from eye-popping to mind-blowing.

But perhaps most importantly, I came back from a week full of smiles with a serious attitude adjustment from what I had experienced during the week. 

Around every corner of the exhibit hall, in every one of the meeting rooms, in the hallways, at the coffee bar, at the registration desk, smiles were in abundance. Largely perfect weather accommodated the positive spirit of markets represented at UIC. The Oklahoma City location received near unanimous praise for its new convention facilities and hotels, combined with tremendous growth of entertainment and first-class restaurants, all of which led to an amazing experience for attendees. 

There were also plenty of smiles from old friends, as several amazing events supplemented the busy activities. I couldn’t turn around without being greeted by smiles, handshakes and embraces from acquaintances old and new.  

Speaking of markets, there were plenty of smiles going around related to upbeat information about infrastructure spending in most underground markets. Catching up and discussing the markets was the subject of many conversations – and all generally included good news. Of course, that’s one of the key elements of UIC, sharing valuable market information. With large sums of federal infrastructure spending still scheduled for dispersal through 2026, sewer, water, storm water, fiber and power markets are enjoying a rare renaissance of much-needed spending. 

But that optimism for transportation energy pipelines and large HDD work was still cautious. Most in that market are anxiously awaiting the Presidential election to see if the energy market will get a boost or continue on survival mode. 

There were three special functions at UIC, all of which brought not just smiles but ear-to-ear grins. The Most Valuable Professional award, sponsored by the Underground Construction Technology Association and Underground Infrastructure magazine, deservedly went to long-time industry expert Russ Ford whose dedication and hard work have aided cities in finding solutions to problems and needs from Florida to Texas to California. Ford has also served as a key pillar in promoting and growing the UCTA, strongly believing in its mission of education, scholarship and networking. 

The recognition of industry accomplishments continued with the annual Underground Infrastructure Awards. Smiles and applause were plentiful throughout this special evening banquet. Awards were given for outstanding achievements in the world of underground infrastructure, ranging from projects to technology to individual achievement. Finalists and their industry supporters gathered for an evening of steak and shrimp, cheers and plenty of smiles – especially when the sealed envelopes were opened, and winners were announced. It was no doubt an evening to remember. 

Next up was the renowned HDD Hall of Fame Honors that welcomed six incredible people into the fold. The individuals read like a veritable who’s who of the HDD industry and ranged from inventors to contractors, all who made an indelible mark upon the history, growth and future of HDD. 

The HDD Class of 2024 included: Mary Andringa, Vermeer Corp.; Ed Malzahn, Ditch Witch; Steve Akerman, C&S Construction; Curtis Allen, Baroid; Jim Agnew, InRock; and Marcus Laney, Laney Directional Drilling. All are truly names that will forever be revered in the annals of HDD history. The Hall of Fame Class was recognized at an HDD Reunion reception where each member was introduced and spoke to the cheering audience of friends and family. 

All three of these unique events were particularly significant, even poignant, to the recipients as they were honored by peers for their many accomplishments. The smiles and congratulations were given with utmost sincerity. 

We plan on bringing a lot more smiles – in record numbers –when we return to our roots in Houston, March 4-6, 2025. Mark your calendars for the best opportunity of the year to learn, examine solutions and technology, listen to top industry experts and above all, find out just how infectious the smiles are at UIC. 

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