This article originally appeared in WQP June 2021 issue as "Value of the Industry"
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Negley’s Well Drilling Inc. got its start in 1979, first focusing on well drilling and then growing to serve water treatment needs for customers throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.
Trent Stumbaugh, current vice president of water treatment at Negley’s Water, entered the water industry in 2004 with a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Pennsylvania’s Dickinson College under his belt. A friend of his, Dustin Negley, was part of Negley’s Well Drilling Inc. team in Newburg, Pennsylvania, which was considering expanding its services to the well water treatment industry.
Stumbaugh was recruited and then on-boarded onto Negley’s Well Drilling team in 2004, helping the team build a water treatment program alongside the well drilling business. Negley’s Well Drilling Inc. has since changed its name to Negley’s Water, which has four locations (with a soon to be fifth) and a total of 30 water treatment team members.
A core value of the business that makes it so successful, Stumbaugh said, is the team-player attitude employees maintain. Mutual respect and cooperation between the team’s employees keep Negley’s Water running smoothly and focused on the task at hand, serving and educating its customers.
Negley’s Water addresses water quality needs such as access to more water, higher water pressure, water testing, contaminant removal, water softening and more. Hardness, iron and sulfur are also key contaminants the business faces.
Water Industry Growth Through COVID-19
According to Stumbaugh, what he and the team did not realize when they started the business was how widespread the water treatment industry was.
“We kind of had more of a target focus to just handle our well customers,” Stumbaugh said. “So we would drill wells for a customer, do the pump work for them, and then we thought we would just be serving those existing customers more or less, more of a well focused addition to our existing program. What we found was that as we grew we ended up getting a lot more business in water treatment.”
The team began dealing with city water, municipal systems, and what he described as “endless amounts” of people with water treatment needs. Stumbaugh and the team were astonished by this, and he added that at first he “underestimated the water treatment market.”
Despite the initial surprise about the variation in water treatment needs, it is now a constant for Stumbaugh and his team to maintain a balanced water treatment division that handles residential, commercial and industrial. No challenge is too big for Negley’s Water, nor does the team see value in putting all of its eggs in one basket.
The service area for Greencastle’s Negley’s Water location faces issues with high levels of bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids (TDS), lead and more. Additionally, the other locations experience issues with water hardness, iron and sulfur contamination. Despite a diverse array of water issues, Stumbaugh considers these challenges as something that keeps the business’ water consultants sharp and on their toes.
Adapting & Welcoming Challenge
The team prides itself on the diversity of its marketing tactics and clientele, who come from a variety of markets and ages, Stumbaugh said.
“We’ve really adapted. I remember when we first came here, it was like a lot of money was used just for phonebooks,” Stumbaugh said. “Of course phone books are not even a thing now and so we’ve had to adapt to where now we are doing social media marketing, investing a lot of money in websites, search engine optimization (SEO).”
From utilizing social media marketing tactics online, to attending home shows and fairs, Negley’s Water prioritizes building genuine relationships with members of the community. As the teams develop relationships with the members of the community, work flows naturally to business, Stumbaugh said.
Similar to other water treatment dealerships, Negley’s Water had to adapt to the changes presented by the COVID-19 pandemic to create a safe and socially-distant experience with its customers. Negley’s Water ultimately had a successful 2020, according to Stumbaugh.
The Ever-Changing Industry
The industry is always changing and Stumbaugh believes that this will provide even more opportunity for Negley’s Water to serve its customers.
“We just want to try and be the best in serving our customers and if being the best means that we need to continue to grow because we can find more customers that can use our services, then we’ll continue to grow accordingly,” Stumbaugh said.
He described key themes of the business as always continuing improvement and being unafraid to expand. Stumbaugh believes that accepting the growth that comes with running a business means the team will inevitably become larger, which he welcomes, noting that although it may be common for people in the water business to wear many hats, one person can simply not be good at everything, no matter how talented they are.
Without this growth it is likely that “things start to suffer,” Stumbaugh said.
“Water touches our lives in so many ways and so you can’t underestimate the value of the industry,” Stumbaugh stated, “The more you learn, the more you realize there is so much more to learn. I like the challenge.”
Reflecting on the year of 2020, Stumbaugh is proud to be part of the water industry, which he describes as a life-sustaining industry.
“Without this industry, society ceases to exist in some regard,” Stumbaugh added. “Water remains a staple, if not the main staple that people need. And that’s something to be proud of — that you work in this industry.”
Looking to the future, Negley’s Water is excited to expand its team, service outreach, and watch and learn as the industry continues to tackle water quality issues. In 2021, Negley’s Water hopes to get its fifth location in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, up and running.