Bruce Kaiser likes what he’s found in these parts. That’s why, after 30 years, Lightning Masters is opening a physical location in the Basin.
by Paul Wiseman
Long distance relationships are always a challenge. Since 1984, Lightning Masters personnel have faithfully maintained that relationship between the company’s Clearwater, Fla., headquarters and their widespread customer base in the Permian Basin, the Four Corners region, and, in recent years, the Eagle Ford Shale.
On Sept. 14, they will cut the ribbon on a brand new Permian Basin warehouse and yard on Business 20, just east of Midland International Air and Space Port.
The company provides static and lightning protection for a variety of industries, including oil and gas. “We do a lot for chemical companies, different types of production facilities, concrete batch plants, asphalt hot mix plants, all types of things,” said Lightning Master Chairman and CEO Bruce A. Kaiser. “But a large part of our business is exploration and production in the oil patch.”
Customer categories also include saltwater disposal (SWD) and “pretty much everybody—at least, that’s what the salespeople tell me.”
After 30 years of the long-distance relationship, one might say it was finally time to put a ring on the finger. “It’s reached the point where we need to have a physical presence and supply parts and labor locally,” Kaiser said. “Rather than have our guys fly back and forth from Clearwater—which becomes a tactical nightmare –that way we can have people there [on site].”
Flying people in and out was one thing, but storing trucks and equipment in the Basin when the personnel left was another problem altogether. This is one of the main issues solved by opening a physical location, which includes a 5,000 square foot building on a 1.1-acre lot. “There’s room to keep the trucks inside, and the lifts, and store parts there so we can respond more quickly to the customers.”
Lightning Masters has had one full-time salesperson in West Texas for a while, with service personnel traveling back and forth. With the new location, they will have a receptionist along with 2-3 field installers, all of whom they look to hire locally.
While the downturn has crippled many businesses—and Lightning Masters has indeed seen some slight slowdown—the company is still strong in the area. Its new office shows that Kaiser and his team are confident that the Permian Basin will thrive again before long.
Kaiser attributes his company’s better-than-expected ride through the rough waters to the fact that lightning and static don’t watch the WTI ticker. “We have a system for exploration/production tanks—for the water tanks and the oil tanks—to keep them from blowing up because of static. This is a system we invented probably six to seven years ago, and [it’s] pretty important to have those tanks not blow up,” he said. Because customers need Lightning Masters’ technology for safety and productivity reasons, it’s in demand no matter the price of oil.
Static does not confine itself to storms, Kaiser noted. “You get out in West Texas, it’s pretty dry out there. And you get that grit blowing through the air against a fiberglass tank, that’ll put a pretty good charge on it.”
Much of this happens out in the wilderness, but Kaiser pointed out that the most critical lightning and static protection is in town. “The city requires lightning protection on the batteries because, obviously, they don’t want it blowing up in town.” A static-based explosion can send tank parts up to 200 feet or more.
Along with installations, Lightning Masters does inspections annually and after any change in the tanks. Changes can include service work on a tank, the addition or removal of tanks or equipment and other updates.
Having visited Midland several times over the 32 years since he founded the company, Kaiser allows that he likes the city and its main industry. “The oil business is very, very interesting. The people are great; everybody just wants to get things done.” Some of Lightning Masters’ other client industries are more reliant on corporate offices for decisions, which can delay installations for weeks. “And then you get out in the oil patch where you’ve got a bunch of guys with a problem [who] just want to get it solved. It’s a lot more fun doing business that way.”
The physical address of the new yard is 1294 South County Road 1255 in Midland County. It is visible from Business 20 just east of the airport. To celebrate the grand opening, Lightning Masters is hosting a barbecue and beer lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on September 14. Kaiser himself will be there to greet new and existing customers.