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Lawn & Landscape Staff | September 11, 2012

Spring Valley founder dies

JACKSON Wis. – Oliver F. Vogel, founder of Spring Valley Turf, died on Aug. 13 at the age of 88.

After his barn was struck by lighting and killed most of his milk cows in April 1954, Vogel started Vogel Seed & Fertilizer (now known as Spring Valley Turf). He was president for 35 years.

Vogel is survived by four children, including Spring Valley CEO, Bill Vogel and president, Randy Vogel, and his wife, Betty.

Vogel was born on June 7, 1924. He was a lifetime member of David’s Star Evangelical Lutheran Church and a past member of the church council. He started the Cedar Valley 4-H Club which later became the Kirchhayn Trotters 4-H Club. He also started the Dairyland Softball League.

He was a member of the past Jackson Business Association. In 1970, Vogel was appointed a director of the Jackson State Bank and also became a director of the Fertilizer Association.

In 1976, he was a member of the MATC advisory committee. Vogel received the Wisconsin Ag. Dealer of the Year Award in 1988. He was a member of the town of Jackson Planning Commission for 22 years and also served as chairman on the board of appeals.

Swingle extends Colorado reach with acquisition

DENVER – Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care acquired Saratoga Ventures, a Boulder/Longmont, Colorado, lawn services company.

The acquisition further solidifies Swingle’s position as the largest independently owned lawn and tree care company in Colorado, helping Swingle provide increasingly improved and expansive service for residential and commercial lawn service clients in Northern Colorado, Swingle said in a statement.

The move was initiated by Saratoga Ventures in an effort to guarantee its client base be served by a Colorado company with a reputation of exceptional service, a diverse range of services and staff technical expertise, the statement said.

“Our team’s focus will be on servicing our existing client base while fostering loyalty among new customers as we integrate them into the Swingle family,” said Thomas R. Tolkacz, CEO of Swingle.

Swingle was ranked 69 on the 2012 Lawn & Landscape Top 100 list with revenue of $17.4 million and 210 employees in season.

 

Project EverGreen awarding free mowers

NEW PRAGUE, Minn. – Designed to reward beautification efforts being carried out by organizations volunteering their time to keeping yards and parks in good condition, Project EverGreen announces a Facebook contest to give away a total of 12 Toro mowers to two deserving groups.

Project EverGreen’s Beautify the Block Project asks groups to explain how they would use six Toro walk-behind mowers to beautify their blocks.

“There are a lot of ways for a group to beautify its block,” said Cindy Code, Project EverGreen executive director. “Whether it’s a cleanup effort at a park or playground, ball field or series of neighborhood lawns, we want to help take two groups’ efforts to the next level with this Toro mower giveaway.”

Project EverGreen is a nonprofit organization committed to informing the public about the positive effects of well-maintained green spaces, including lawns and landscapes, sports turf, golf courses and parks.

There are two ways to enter: A group may submit a written entry found on Project EverGreen’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ProjectEverGreen. Or they may upload a video entry to YouTube or Vimeo showing how the mowers would be used, and share that video link in its entry form on Facebook.

Once at Project EverGreen’s Facebook page, click on the “Beautify the Block Project” button near the top of the page to get started.

“We wanted to give entrants multiple ways to get involved with the contest so they can be creative and have fun with it,” Code said. “The Toro Company was gracious enough to donate these mowers to Project EverGreen and we want to give them to these groups already making a difference in their own communities.”

A full list of rules and regulations can be found on the Project EverGreen Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ProjectEverGreen, where written and video entries will be submitted as well.

Entries must be submitted by Sept. 30.


ValleyCrest’s safest employees win trucks

(Top) Amelia Lopez, left, with Chairman Richard Sperber. (Bottom)Roger Zino, CEO, shakes hand with Jose M. Carrillo.

CALABASAS, Calif. – ValleyCrest Landscape Cos. celebrated its 2012 National Safety Awareness Day by presenting new work trucks to four deserving employees.

In a typical day, ValleyCrest crews are out on the road in more than 4,400 trucks, pulling more than 2,500 trailers to thousands of customer job sites where they’ll operate some 9,000 pieces of equipment.

This year a record 4,600 employees across four different U.S. safety regions were eligible to enter a drawing for a new truck. To qualify, full-time field employees must complete one-year of service with no accidents and be employed by a branch that meets or exceeds the company’s threshold safety standards.

The four new truck winners for 2012 include:

Domingo Cruz Hernandez, a crew leader in the maintenance division in Palo Alto, Calif., who’s been with the company for 14 years.

Angel Hernandez-Ayala, a gardener in the Maintenance Division in Phoenix who’s been with the company for five years.

Amelia Lopez, a gardener in the Maintenance Division in Tampa, Fla., who’s been with the company for seven years.

Jose M. Carrillo, a crew leader in the Maintenance Division in Delray Beach, Fla., who’s been with the company for four years.

 

TruGreen revenue down for second quarter of 2012

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – TruGreen reported second-quarter operating revenue of $351 million, a decrease of 8.3 percent compared to second-quarter 2011 results, the company reported. The decline in operating revenue was due to a 12.1 percent decline in average residential full-program customer counts.

This decrease was partially offset by improved price realization and a 20 basis-point increase in the customer retention rate, the company said. Additionally, revenue from commercial customers increased $4.6 million.

ServiceMaster’s second-quarter 2012 results included operating revenue of $962 million, a decline of 0.5 percent compared to second-quarter 2011 results.

The company’s second-quarter operating income, which included a $67.7 million non-cash trade name impairment charge, decreased 40 percent to $97 million.

The company’s operating performance increased 0.3 percent to $212 million compared to the same period in 2011.

ServiceMaster’s overall operating revenue for the first six months of the year increased 2.2 percent, to $1.6 billion.

The company’s operating performance for the first six months increased 8.8 percent, to $313 million.

“We’re pleased with the company’s overall performance through the first half of the year, even though we saw a slight decline in revenue and profitability in the second quarter.

“Excluding TruGreen, our operating revenue for the first six months of the year was up 6.7 percent,” said Hank Mullany, ServiceMaster’s CEO.

 

ServiceMaster voids $1 billion bond

Memphis Tenn. – In a rare event, The ServiceMaster Co. returned to the high-yield market after voiding a $1 billion deal that priced a week ago before settlement.

The company, which provides services such as pest control, lawn care and cleaning to residential and commercial clients, announced in a regulatory filing that it was lowering its 2012 revenue and EBITDA forecasts, because one of its three business lines, TruGreen, is expected to show continued weakness in the second half of 2012.

TruGreen reported $1.1 billion in revenue to claim the top spot on the 2012 Lawn & Landscape Top 100 List.

As a result, bankers and the company decided to cancel its 6.125 percent notes due 2020, which priced last Wednesday at par. Those notes, which were upsized significantly from $300 million to $1 billion, failed to perform in the aftermarket, trading down as much as two points initially before moving to around 99 earlier this week.

Memphis, Tenn.-based ServiceMaster and lead underwriters JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Citi and Natixis, decided to void the original deal to deter any disputes with bondholders based on the newly disclosed information.

"It's easier to go back to retract the bond than deal with lawsuits," said one investor. – Reuters

 

Emak USA hosts efco University

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Blount International distribution facility in Kansas City was the setting for a recent training program for 67 distributor sales personnel of Emak USA and Blount International. For three and half days, the attendees were focused on increasing their product knowledge and demonstration skills for all the products they sell.

Lee Richey general manager said, “efco University, with the theme ‘Mission Possible,’ was developed to help our distributor salesmen become more familiar with our company and the features and benefits of our products. We held classroom sessions and then went outside for hands-on demonstrations of each of the 39 models we now offer.”

The company’s goal was to bring the distributors and their sales representatives together to review the existing product line and introduce six new products. A complete review of the product line was held, in addition to a review of the company background and history of the efco product line.

The goal was for every attendee to have hands on experience with every product and be able to discuss the features and benefits with dealers. During a four-hour period in the afternoon, everyone ran all 39 pieces of the efco line, including the new products.

All the personnel who did run each piece of equipment were entered into a contest, with prizes that included $50, $75, $100, and a grand prize of an iPad. Joe Scroggin from RBI, Inc., took home the grand prize at the end of the day.

 

Wright announces arrangement with Deere

FREDERICK, Md. – Wright Manufacturing announced a design and manufacturing arrangement with Deere & Co. Beginning with the 2013 season, Wright is to manufacture a range of commercial stand-on mowers bearing the John Deere brand using Wright’s patented technology.

Deere will distribute and support the mowers through its worldwide network of independent dealers. Wright sees this effort as strengthening Wright and its dealers in the years ahead. Wright Manufacturing invented the stand-on lawn mower and manufactures a complete line of stand-on, walk behind and mid-mount zero turn mowers that are distributed worldwide.


Ruppert teams with ABC

LAYTONSVILLE, Md. – Ruppert Landscape partnered with Associated Builders and Contractors of Metro Washington (ABC) to host a summer networking event on July 11 at Ruppert’s corporate headquarters in Laytonsville, Md. More than 500 people attended the event

ABC’s Metro Washington Chapter has been holding its Summer Networking Event at Ruppert headquarters for nearly 15 years.

“Our involvement with ABC affords us the opportunity to interact with other contractors and customers who are serving our industry,” said Chris Davitt, company president.

ABC of Metro Washington represents the interests of approximately 500 contractors, specialty contractors, and suppliers throughout the Washington metropolitan area who support and believe in the principles of merit shop and open competition. Merit Shop is a way of doing business in which companies reward employees based on performance while encouraging them to reach their highest level of achievement, and in which contracts are awarded based on safety, quality and value – regardless of labor affiliation.