From Devil’s Tower in the east to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park in the west, Wyoming is known for its natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor recreation. With six people per square mile, only Alaska is more sparsely populated.
Wyomingites are accustomed to a unique set of challenges. Driving one hundred or more miles in a day is relatively commonplace. Daily temperature swings can easily exceed 40°F. Summer temps break 100°F, and golf ball-sized hail can materialize at any time. In the winter, the mercury is known to plunge well into the double digit sub-zero realm. And then there’s the wind…
Mechanical contractors in the Cowboy State have evolved to take all of this in stride. There aren’t but a dozen or two commercial outfits in Wyoming; one or two in each community – maybe.
“As the name implies, we serve the Bighorn Basin, which is essentially the territory between the Bighorn and Absaroka mountain ranges,” said Will Poindexter, VP at Basin Mechanical in Cody, WY. The company is known for its quality work in the commercial and industrial spaces. “We’ll go as far as the Colorado or Idaho border when needed.”
“Schools and hospitals are big markets for us,” he continued. “There are a number of general contractors who call on us when they’re working on educational or medical facilities anywhere in the state. We also deal with water treatment and other municipal facilities quite frequently.”
Even the kitchen sink
Basin Mechanical’s company logo – a pack mule loaded with everything from golf clubs to drafting equipment – is humorous by design, yet symbolic of how a commercial contractor in Wyoming needs to travel.
“The mule is a throwback to 40 years ago when the company’s founder, Gordon Allison, moved to Cody with everything he owned, mules and all, to start the company and to forge a new life,” explained Poindexter. “But in a way, it resembles how we travel to jobsites across the state. Supply houses are few and far between, and depending when and where a job takes place, it’s entirely possible that roads could be shut down. Everything we could possibly need must be on the truck.”
So Basin regularly travels with a tractor trailer. In other places, that might seem like overkill for a medium-sized company tackling medium-sized projects, but not in Wyoming.
“Distances and volatile weather might be unique to the western states,” said Poindexter. “But we battle some of the same challenges that contractors everywhere deal with, especially the workforce shortage. Finding enough skilled manpower can be really tough. With about 10,000 people in all, Cody isn’t home to a huge workforce.
One of Basin’s answers to the workforce challenge is working smarter, not harder.
“Labor is always an issue, so we’re constantly looking for products or systems that will minimize our time in the field. From press fittings to design software, if we can take hours off a job while simultaneously increasing the quality of our product, we want to learn more about it.”
One of the most recent solutions Basin has implemented comes from the use of Watts LavEx lavatory carriers. Schools in particular generally feature large restrooms with multiple sinks. It takes quite a bit of time to individually hang each lavatory and ensure each sink is at an identical height.
“The LavEx carriers are available for applications from one to four sinks,” said Poindexter. “With this system, we can rapidly install multiple sinks on a single, rock solid structure.”
Designed for use through a block wall, LavEx carriers are ideal for prefabrication or on-site construction. Both the height of the carriers and the length of the support arms are quickly adjustable.
“It took us 15 minutes to completely assemble the four-sink LavEx carrier the first time we used one,” said Basin Jobsite Supervisor, David Ellis. “The height of the track that carries the support arms gets measured on either side of the unit, and that’s it; all the sinks will be perfectly level at the same height.”
“The units are designed for block wall applications, but could easily be used through a 2-by-six wall because they’re free-standing,” he continued. “Everything about the system is heavy duty, so we can assemble them in our shop, place them in the truck, and make minor adjustments in the field.”
“We tend to be a little hesitant while implementing new technologies we find, only because we need to be sure that the quality and support is there before we’ll install it in a customer’s facility,” said Poindexter. “But the lav carriers come from a brand whose commercial products we use all the time. We get great results with Watts components. A lot of our jobs feature Watts trench drains, mixing valves, and pressure reducing valves. It’s all readily available at our wholesalers, too.
Winter in northwest Wyoming always slows the pace of work to a degree, but ongoing Basin projects include a new manufacturing facility downtown, a wastewater treatment plant, and in nearby Thermopolis, a new rehab center.
Poindexter and Ron Couture, Estimator and Project Manager, are busy bidding projects for 2020 and beyond.
There’s a new school in Sheridan currently in the design phase, the Wild Sheep Foundation is building a new visitor center in Dubois, two new pharmacies are planned in Powell and Worland, and Powell Valley Healthcare is soon adding a new emergency room.
“We do everything as though our reputation depends on it, because it does,” concluded Poindexter. “Though the country’s wide open, the communities are small, so everything we do is noticed, and noted. Our reputation for quality work means everything in our part of the country.”
Plenty of room, and work, to grow. With the right resources in place, and solid work ethic, Basin Mechanical’s got a recipe to get the jobs done properly.