Family is the core of this drilling business
By Leslie Fitzwater
The owners of L J Hughes & Sons Inc. are humbled to have their company ranked the 4,319th fastest growing company in the nation by Inc. Magazine. Yet, they express more excitement talking about the everyday work they do drilling core samples then they do about the magazine’s designation. “What’s so neat is the hole that we drill is roughly three inches in diameter, and from that we recover a two-inch diameter core,” said company president Mike Hughes. “When you pull that core sample up out of the ground - that rock was formed millions of years ago - and you’re the first person to ever touch it. It’s even cooler when you find something like a fossilized seashell.”
L J Hughes & Sons Inc., a Summersville-based company, is involved in the initial stages of coal mining, drilling up to 3,000 feet to physically obtain core samples that prove whether or not locations have predicted coal reserves. The company then turns those core samples over to engineers and geologists who verify the quality and depth of the coal reserves which, in turn, allows the mining companies to determine the method and equipment that will be needed to remove the coal.
Brothers Mike and Mick Hughes and their cousin Fletcher Herold are grandsons of the company’s founder, L. J. Hughes, and, they along with Fletcher’s sister Becky Adkins, are the third generation of Hughes offspring to work for the company. The sons in L J Hughes and Sons were Mike’s and Mick’s father Charles and his brother Robert. Fletcher’s mother Evelyn and her husband Bob Herold also worked for the company. Today, L J Hughes and Sons is owned by Mike, who serves as president; Mick, who is vice president; and Fletcher, the company’s treasurer. Becky is the corporate secretary. Matthew Lilly, the nephew of Mike and Mick, is the fourth generation to work for the family-owned business, and currently is getting first-hand experience by working in the field.
Fletcher spent summers working with his father on a drill rig, and says that after college he started working for the company full time because he was needed. “They were busy, and needed me in the office to help. I remained with the company because I liked it so well; I never pursued anything else.”
Mick intended to work for the business only a short time before continuing his education. “I planned to work for a couple of years after college before getting a graduate degree or going on to law school, but I got involved with this company and never left.”
Mike had his own reasons for pursuing a career outside L J Hughes & Sons. “My dad, Charles, initially ran the business from a room in our house. I don’t think there was ever a dinner that we sat down to that wasn’t interrupted by an employee calling in with a problem. I said I didn’t want to do that.” Working as a drill helper during his summer breaks from college gave him a different perspective though. “I don’t know what happened; it sort of somehow gets into your blood. By the time I graduated from college I really didn’t have any desire to do anything else but work for the company. So I immediately started full time as a drill helper and over the years worked my way up to where I am now. I can’t say that at the time I really liked working every day in the field, but those years were invaluable. What I learned working in the field and how I can relate to problems today was a very good education for me.”