Ron Patterson from Spira Systems Ltd for Airdrie Life Magazine. Photo Credit: Sergei Belski

Finding Opportunity in a Downturn

Spira Systems AirdrieMost businesses struggle during a recession, but Ron Patterson took the recent economic downturn in Alberta as an opportunity to start his enterprise.

Airdrie-based Spira Systems was established in July 2015 but became operational at the beginning of this year and today has nine employees. And it’s growing. Its corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility are located in about 25,000 square feet of space.

“It’s a drilling tool manufacturing company that focuses on directional drilling equipment and primarily power sections,” says Patterson, who is well-experienced, along with his partners, in the power section and drilling motor industry with combined experienced of about 100 years. “Essentially the products that we make, they power the drill bit for both oil and gas and utility drilling.”

The partners decided they were going to start their own company several years ago.

Patterson says the recession that spanned two years in Alberta in 2015 and 2016 was the trigger point to start off the business.

“We’ve been waiting for a downturn. With the oil and gas industry being in such a big boom, it inflates costs. It inflates availability of people. Inflates from capital equipment to people to facilities at a premium,” he says. “With a downturn coming we knew that facilities would become available…. We were able to get people. We were able to capitalize equipment at a fraction of what it would have been in an upturn. And personnel, we were able to secure some very quality people with knowledge in the industry who otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get.

“(Opening during) the downturn was fully intentional. High risk. But the oil and gas industry has always been cyclical and it will always recover,” says Patterson.

Establishing the business in Airdrie was also opportunistic. The type of facility the company was looking for was hard to find in Calgary even with the downturn. It needed yard space, overhead room for cranes, good clean offices, and lots of parking.

Precision Drilling was the previous tenant of Spira’s space in Airdrie at 22 East Lake Crescent N.E.

“We got word that the building was available before it even hit the market. And Airdrie, too, has been quite business friendly. Not having any business tax here, they’ve been quite engaged in helping us get established here,” says Patterson.

Spira Systems is a privately-owned manufacturing company, supplying the oil and gas drilling industry with premium quality products and superior customer service.

Spira Systems combines the operational expertise of a North American power section manufacturing team with Artemis, a German engineering company.

“Together we are committed to delivering exceptional quality stators, rotors and relines to the North American drilling motor industry,” says Patterson, who has been involved in the downhole drilling tool and drilling motor industries for more than 25 years.

“Essentially at the very basic level we’re a rubber moulding company and machine company. We are joint venture with a German company out of Hanover. They’re a family run, quite large rubber manufacturing company specializing in oil and gas and agricultural rubber products,” says Patterson.

Artemis produces all of the company’s rubber compounding and mixing. It was looking to expand into North America and it knew of Patterson and his partners’ reputation in this environment.

Patterson says Spira’s technology gives it the ability to make a more robust power section than conventional power sections.

Over his career he has held positions of president and chief executive officer of Wenzel Downhole Tools Ltd, vice-president of Dyna-Drill Technologies Canada, global vice-president of Drilling Motor Technologies for National Oilwell Varco (NOV), and vice-president of NOV Downhole Tools Canada.

Chris Thomson is the company’s vice-president and Majid Delpassand serves as its vice-president in the United States.

Business has been good since Spira started with clients primarily in Canada and the United States. It has been doing some business with international clients as well.

Plans for growth include “future expansion into the U.S., if we can,” says Patterson. “Product line expansion will be another growth. We’ll probably diversify into comparable product lines. That may be outside the oil and gas industry as well.”

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