Technician/Surveyor for over 6 years. Lives in Altamont, IL with his wife, Megan and their 3 children; Jadyn, Dalton, and Jordyn.
Owner/Operator for over 40 years. Lives in Mattoon, IL with his wife Bev.
Meet The Guys
Bookkeeper/Office Manager for over 7 years. Lives in Mattoon, IL and has three boys; Jaxon, Jace, and Maxdon.
The History of Dean Drainage
PAST TO PRESENT
Many of you may know Bill Dean best from his role as ILICA President, 2007 - 2009 and current Chairman of the Board. He sometimes took that role to extremes, as illustrated by this picture taken at the 2009 Convention in Spring-field, but that is just one of the things that make Bill Dean an outstanding and always interesting leader, committee member and friend. But Bill Dean has been a member of ILICA since the first year he started in business, back in 1976. As with most long-time ILICA members, he became involved gradually but understood early on what a benefit the organization was to his growth as a businessman. If you haven’t had the pleasure of working on a committee or project with Bill Dean, I highly recommend it...and I guarantee that you’ll learn some-thing...whether it’s useful or not!
Roger Daily approached Bill about joining ILICA in the fall of 1976 and Bill decided it would be a good way to stay informed as a new businessman. Although he did not start going to board meetings right away, he did attend ILICA con-ventions and found that he learned more sitting in hallways or having a cup of coffee with other ILICA contractors, discuss-ing their experiences and learning from their mistakes and suc-cesses, than he got from attending educational sessions. That alone was enough to keep him coming back until the mid 80’s when he agreed to serve as an alternate director. He volun-teered at the 1984 Conservation Expo in Monticello, only missing one from that time on, and then, only because of his railroad duties. By the late 1980’s he had become very active, participating on committees, attending conventions, board meetings, workshops and ultimately agreeing to become an officer of ILICA.
But this story is about the journey of Dean Drainage, which was started by a young man who had just turned 20 and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life, other than stay in an industry related to agriculture. One thing he was sure of is that it was going to be something that did not involve the 24-7 lifestyle required by raising livestock, which is how he had spent his youth, helping his father on their family farm. While working on his Associates degree in civil engi-neering from Lakeland College, Bill answered an ad by a con-tractor looking for help and started doing his surveying after classes finished each day...the old fashioned way, with a dumpy level and targets. That’s how he met Don Bareither, who had lots of drainage and tile repair work that needed done on his farm but had no idea how to run a trencher or survey; so Don asked Bill to partner with him after he graduated from Lake-land. Starting out in this industry at a time when all tile was clay or concrete, Bill definitely had not moved away from the hard physical labor he’d gown up with, but he was able to take weekends or at least a Sunday off to enjoy himself and spend time with family. Bill purchased their first trencher, a 6060 Speicher, which he operated from 1976 to 1990 under the business name of Dean & Bareither Drainage. It was the only time in Bill’s career that a bank required him to have someone co-sign on an equipment purchase. The partnership continued with the trencher and a backhoe, doing septic systems, footings and whatever else they could to keep busy when crops were up and tiling stopped. Bill added snow removal to their list of services in 1980 and bought a big snow-blower in 1982, hoping some pre-season advertising in town would help get enough work to pay for it. He parked it on the main thoroughfare and soon after, Illinois Central Railroad (ICRR) contacted them to ask if they would contract to keep the roads leading to their switches clear through the winter. That also led to additional summer work, requiring the purchase of a second backhoe and, often times, the rental of a third. Between cleaning up derailments, some of which were hazardous materials, maintaining crossings, clearing ditches and roadsides, cribbing between the ties and replacing rock, they ended up adding a dump truck and trailers to help handle hauling equipment and material in and out for ICRR as well. But regardless of what else they had to do, farm tiling remained the main stay and focus of Dean & Bareither Drainage.
In March of 1990, Bill had the opportunity to buy out his partner and the company became Dean Drainage. Through the ‘90s, the company was so busy they ended up renting sev-eral pieces of equipment. Tiling still made up around 75% of the business income with ICRR making up 20% and only 5% coming from septic work and other excavation. By then Dean Drainage had traded in the old 6060 on a 7160 Speicher and the fleet had grown to include a 3600 Speicher Auger-backfiller, 2 Case Super K backhoes, 2 pickups and a dump truck. In 1997, he bought the company’s first excavator, used of course, as was most of the equipment Bill had purchased up to that time. In 1999 he acquired a 2400 Hydra-Max trencher, upgrading it to a 2600 Hydra-Max in 2004 and adding a Komatsu dozer with 6-way blade in 2005. He also upgraded the dump truck and added a semi and lowboy to his fleet. In 2007, he was finally in a position to consider something new and purchased his first brand new piece of equipment, a Case CX210B excavator, however, he says "I only did that because it had 0% interest."
All this work kept Bill and another full time person busy along with occasional part time help. The company had seen many changes to the industry and kept up to date on them, mainly through ILICA. In 1983, clay and concrete tile was quickly being replaced by plastic, and Dean started out using the small coils which were easier for a smaller operation to handle. In 1986, they went to maxi-rolls, which proved to be as big of a transition as switching from clay to plastic had been. Surveying also changed a lot during this time, and from the targets and dumpy level used in 1976, Bill switched to a manual leveling laser, then moved up to an automatic parallel plane (APP) self leveling laser in 1980. That was replaced with a Trimble 945, and ultimately Dean purchased the Trimble 722 auto level with remote he uses today. For the last 3 years, Dean Drainage has relied on his RTK GPS grade control for their Wolfe plow while using a laser for the trencher.
Another change Bill has experienced during his many years as a land improvement contractor was the move to large drainage systems which became more popular as interstate highways started cutting through prime agricultural land. And although Dean Drainage continues to install the 500 - 1500 ft. tiling jobs that got them started in 1976, 75% of their business today stems from landowners installing larger systems that can be done in phases or sections. The other 25% is made up of waterways, PTO terrace work, random tile lines and both residential and commercial drain installations. Dean Drainage has continued to grow, updating the Case backhoes and excavator and adding another semi and lowboy, 2 dump trailers and a spread axle flat-bed, 2 one-ton flatbed trucks, a single axle dump truck, tag trailer, Brown Bear auger-backfiller and the Wolfe tile plow he purchased in 2005. He employees 3 full time and 2 part time staff and no longer does a lot of railroad work, as it became so time consuming that it started to feel a lot like raising livestock again.
The large systems displayed in the photos on page 6 and 7 might present additional challenges created by the topography of the acreage being tiled, but some challenges are always part of the process. Weather, work-ing with multiple land owners on a single project, ever changing government regulations affecting everything from maintaining records in the office to installing prac-tices on the ground and employee conflicts will always make some jobs more difficult than others. But the many rewards make it all worthwhile. The satisfaction felt at the end of the day when you can look across the acreage you’ve improved, knowing that your efforts have left the land better than it was when you started; the fellowship of working hard alongside dedicated employees and the compliments from customers who have become good friends over the years make all the hardships fade in com-parison. He has always understood that it’s easy to get a new customer but the challenge is getting those repeat customers. Today, 85 – 90% of his work is from repeat customers, indicating how close he has become to land-owners in his area. And although he is proud of that ac-complishment, he is most proud of building Dean Drainage from the ground up into what it is today, starting out with little more than sheer determination.
Why We Choose Birkey's Construction
(an article from birkeys.com)
"Bill Dean was raised on a good-sized grain and live- stock farm—at that time, most farms needed both to survive. He enjoyed grain farming and went to college to work on, and receive, an associate’s degree in civil engineering. Since then, Dean’s career has never taken him too far away from the farm, or his engineering background."