Competing for the future

Departments - L&L Insider

NCLC returned to its in-person format this spring.

May 9, 2022

NALP CEO Britt Wood addresses students at the association’s National Collegiate Landscape Competition.
Photo courtesy of NALP

For Britt Wood, it’s not so much that it’s good to be back — it’s good to get started.

Wood, CEO of the National Association of Landscape Professionals, took over NALP in Fall 2019. By the time NCLC rolled around, event organizers postponed the event originally slated to be at Michigan State — COVID-19 forced the event to an online format for the last two years. Wood said he was disappointed when they had to cancel in 2020, and then he was just as disappointed last year when they couldn’t host at Virginia Tech, his undergraduate alma mater.

So, Wood’s first in-person trip to NCLC was at North Carolina State University. It was there where — with a team score of 4739.68 — Brigham Young University (Provo) won the overall event. Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio finished second, while host North Carolina State University placed third.

“I heard about this event when I was working in another industry in another association, how awesome it was,” Wood said. “I’m going to be here the whole time. I’m going to check out as many events as I can. I’m loving the enthusiasm from the kids.”

533 competitors took part in the event, down from where NCLC has peaked around 800. Some schools couldn’t commit in the winter when registration and hotel housing opened up for the event. Even still, he said it was refreshing to see so many schools back at the event.

“We had a few schools that just weren’t going to be able to come because of COVID...but we’ve got two schools that came that made such a great effort to get here that they literally are having to stay in Virginia and then come to North Carolina,” Wood said.

“You talk about dedication? It’s about an hour

(drive). It’s just awesome. I think it shows how much the schools love this event. It’s so important to them.”

One critical element? Networking

The event started off with its annual career fair. Wood commended the NALP team for assembling two good virtual programs for the last two NCLC events, but “you just can’t replace in person.”

The opportunity to meet with potential employers face-to-face is a huge element to the event, Wood said. With 31 competitive events, there’s plenty of opportunities to win big, but he believes connecting with someone who could be a resource down the road in the industry is huge, especially for underclassmen or juniors.

“It’s fun to go to a competition, but at the end of the day…when you make connections with potential employers, now you get a chance to build relationships with people that may harbor themselves over time,” Wood said. “I think it’s a critical part of it.”

Wood added that the career fair is exciting for the companies that are attending, too. With so much work to do back home, he said it’s easy for employers to get bogged down with the nuances of day-to-day work. This gives them an opportunity to disconnect from the day-to-day and talk more big picture about their company with prospective employees.

“They get energized by seeing these young people,” Wood said. “They get excited. I think it’s a great refresher for them.”

Networking after NCLC

Jackie Hales has been on both sides of the table at the NCLC career fair — she was a student attendee at one point, but now works in human resources at Brookstone Landscape & Design, which is based out of Lynnwood, Washington.

She said she understands the value of the networking component now but wishes she would’ve known how to keep in contact with people after the event ended. She hopes students will stay in touch for the months to follow.

“I wish I would have done better at networking and staying in contact with some of the people I had met at the competition,” Hales said. “Networking got me my last job and it got me my current job. I think it’s important to find people in the industry you connect with and stay in touch with as you go through your career.”

Hales recommends sending follow-up emails once every few months or even once or twice a year to strong connections from the career fair.

Come from away

Some 4,300 miles away from its headquarters in Anchorage, Alaska, Arctic Terra attended the NCLC career fair hoping to find its next employees.

The company does anything from septic and foundation repairs to hardscapes, landscapes and fencing. For the last three years, they’ve even done some earthquake repairs.

Sure, Flora Springer works in Idaho — just a bit closer to Raleigh than Alaska — but the recruiter knew she’d find some candidates among the experienced students at the competition. It’s hard enough to find possible employees willing to relocate to Alaska, but it’s even more difficult to find the skilled labor that fits even some of those needs.

“It’s very hard to find people who have any experience at all,” Springer said. “Like anywhere, COVID hit, and now we can’t get employees. We’re booked solid for the summer and we’re trying to find people driven to work, people who are reliable and show up to work every day.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF NALP
Hard work paying off

Many landscape contractors tell Roger Phelps that they can’t get their guys to report for work. At NCLC, Phelps — the corporate communications manager at STIHL, the platinum sponsor for the event — was blown away that students could be out partying for St. Patrick’s Day or laying on a beach for spring break.

Instead, they were at NCLC, competing and networking with others in the green industry.

“What does that say about our industry and the future of our industry?” Phelps said. “How cool is that where we get to be in an industry that is so invested in its future where we get to have this event?”

This was the 19th NCLC event for Phelps, who said the virtual offerings were good stopgaps but couldn’t possibly replace the experience of an in-person event.

Take the small engine event that STIHL hosts for example: No, some students may not ever need to repair an engine, but if they become managers, they should know the value of a trained technician and what they do.

Phelps also specifically mentioned the plant ID events and Truck & Trailer Operation, where two-person tandems are tasked with a written test and maneuvering a truck and trailer through an obstacle course. Plus, there’s the “Super Bowl” of events — Landscape Plant Installation, where all teams are shouting and cheering on their teammates as they place a variety of sod, mulch, plants and more into the landscape.

The experiences mimic those they’ll have in the real workforce, and Phelps said it’s impressive for employers to see this.

“Let’s face it: The hands-on element is so important,” Phelps said. “If (students) can say that they competed in this event, most of the employers out there understand what that means.

“Not only do they have the academic intelligence, but they have the hands-on intelligence in the pressure cooker that is this event. The fact they managed to get through this event says something about them.”

Photo courtesy of NALP
Diversifying the field

Wood noticed when the all-women team from North Dakota State University won the cheer competition during the opening ceremony.

Wood said it’s been a NALP priority to highlight more women in the industry.

He cited one of NALP’s recent studies that suggested only 8% of the landscaping workforce was comprised of women, while 47% of the available workforce are women.

It’s a jarring juxtaposition, and Wood hopes NALP can continue to change that.

He also mentioned engaging more Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which Wood said NALP needs to work on to help increase diversity in the industry.

“Part of it is communicating with our members is to say, ‘Hey, where did you go to school? Are they on our NCLC list?” Wood said. “It’s going to require effort.”

— By Jimmy Miller

Davey Tree merges with Vaillancourt Tree-Landscape Service

The company is located in Pittsford, Vermont.

The DaveyTree Expert company has added Vaillancourt Tree-Landscape Service of Pittsford, Vermont, to its family of brands.

Vaillancourt will be joining Davey’s Eastern Utility service line. Vaillancourt provides utility line clearance services throughout Vermont, in addition to quality residential and commercial tree services in the area surrounding Rutland, Vermont. Vaillancourt has been in business for almost 50 years and has approximately 24 employees who will all continue employment with Davey Tree.

“The merging of Vaillancourt Tree-Landscape Service into the Davey family will be of great benefit to Vaillancourt clients and employees,” said Jon Leonard, president and co-owner of Vaillancourt. “Vaillancourt will now have the ability to support our clients with a greater range of services including the Davey Resource Group’s consulting services, storm response crews and the Davey Institute, which is a leading diagnostic and research facility dedicated to keeping its clients’ trees and landscapes healthy."

Sam Drake, vice president and co-owner of Vaillancourt, said Davey’s employee-owned status was also a contributing factor in their decision to join. “As an employee-owned company, Davey will provide Vaillancourt employees with the opportunity to own a share of their company, providing our employees with financial benefits for years to come," Drake said.

SavATree merges with Kentucky’s Abundant Tree Services

This merger increases SavATree’s market share in the Louisville area.

Savatree has merged with Kentucky-based Abundant Tree Services. This merger increases SavATree’s market share in the Louisville area.

Abundant Tree has been providing professional tree care to residential and commercial clients throughout Louisville for over a decade. Their team of arborists and professional field specialists will continue working with the company.

“One of the most important parts of the transition is that our clients are taken care of. We are confident that SavATree has the team, operational expertise, infrastructure, and strong brand in place to do so,” said Abundant Tree Owner Kevin Bold.

“We’re looking forward to supporting Abundant Tree Services’ clients and helping to keep Louisville’s landscapes healthy and safe,” said SavATree CEO Carmine Schiavone.

Bartlett Tree acquires Fox Tree Care

The Long Island-based company has operated for 45 years.

Bartlett Tree Experts has expanded on Long Island with the acquisition of Fox Tree Care, a boutique tree care company that has been in business for 45 years.

Bart Fusco, owner of Fox Tree Care, said he decided to sell his company to Bartlett Tree Experts as he prepares for retirement because of its leadership in scientific tree care. Bartlett offered the right cultural fit, Fusco said, because both are family businesses that operate “under very similar philosophies.”

With the addition of Fox Tree Care, which is keeping its name as a division of Bartlett Tree Experts, Bartlett will gain density in the Hamptons and more coverage area on the North Fork.

Ryan Lawn & Tree merges with CM’s Outdoor Solutions

Both companies will operate under the name of Ryan Lawn & Tree, and CM’s 61 employees will all be retained.

Ryan Lawn & Tree, a Lawn & Landscape Top 100 company, completed its largest merger to date with CM’s Outdoor Solutions of Omaha, NE.

Founded by Chuck Monico in 1987, CM’s Outdoor Solutions, formerly known as CM’s A Cut Above, has grown from providing only mowing services to offering complete turf, tree, irrigation and landscape services, as well as snow removal for both residential and commercial clients.

For the leadership team at Ryan, the merger was more than a fiscal decision.

“When we met with Chuck and the CM’s team, we liked them right away,” said Larry Ryan, founder and president of Ryan Lawn & Tree. “We saw Chuck as someone who cares about his associates…he hires good people and he’s committed to the industry.”

“One of the biggest things that’s different about Ryan Lawn & Tree is that it’s a faith-based company,” Monico said. “If you have a faith-based company, if you’re looking to take care of your people, if you’re looking to take care of your community and grow the industry, those are companies that would be a great fit for Ryan.”

Both companies will operate under the name of Ryan Lawn & Tree.

CM’s Outdoor Solutions employs 61 people, all of whom will be retained.

Like Ryan Lawn & Tree, CM’s Outdoor Solutions is a participant in the Great Game of Business (GGOB) open-book management system. Both CM’s Outdoor Solutions and Ryan Lawn & Tree were named as 2021 GGOB All-Stars earlier this year.

Ryan Lawn & Tree is 100% employee-owned and with the recent merger has more than 400 full-time associates and graduates from more than 80 different universities.

Ryan Lawn & Tree now serves six different markets, both Kansas City, KS and Kansas City, MO Metro, St. Louis, MO, Springfield, MO, Wichita, KS, Tulsa, OK, and Omaha, NE, and offers a variety of lawn care services.

Terry Horan

Terry Horan named president, CEO of STIHL

Horan was previously RPM Consumer Group president at RPM International.

Terrence “Terry” Horan has been named president and CEO of STIHL Incorporated, and assumed his position on April 1, 2022. Horan will be responsible for the management of the STIHL Group’s largest market and subsidiary. Based in Virginia Beach, Va., STIHL Inc. supplies the majority of STIHL products for the U.S. market. As an integral part of STIHL Group’s manufacturing and sales network, STIHL Inc. also supplies components and products for more than 100 markets worldwide. The company employs more than 3,000 people in the United States.

“We are pleased to welcome Mr. Horan, an internationally successful leader with 35 years of experience in the power tools, DIY, and consumer goods industry to the STIHL family,” said Dr. Nikolas Stihl, chairman of the advisory board and supervisory board at STIHL Group.

Horan joins STIHL Inc. after a career as RPM Consumer Group president at RPM International Inc. Horan has also held various senior leadership roles including president and CEO of DAP Products Inc., president of The Master Lock Company, president and CEO of the Robert Bosch Tool Corporation North America, and president of Dremel Power Tools.

“I am excited both personally and pro

fessionally to join the team at STIHL Inc.,” Horan said. “I look forward to meeting and working with the men and women here in Virginia Beach, our branch and distributor teams, and our vast network of more than 10,000 local STIHL Dealers across the country. Together, we will build on STIHL Inc.’s long-standing legacy of success, accelerate our growth and continue our industry leadership position as the number one selling brand of outdoor power equipment in America.”

Horan, a native of the Chicago area, received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame, and a bachelor’s degree in marketing at Northern Illinois University. He also volunteers as a Start-Up Advisor at the IDEA Center at the University of Notre Dame. He and his wife Jill have three children.

RISE elects new officers for 2022

The 2022 RISE Executive Committee includes Karen Larson, the newly elected chair.

Rise (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) elected new officers and welcomed new Governing Board members during its March meeting in Arlington, Virginia.

The 2022 RISE Executive Committee includes newly elected Chair, Karen Larson (Clarke) and Vice Chair Jose Milan (Bayer Environmental Science). Blaine Pinkerton, Nufarm, will continue his term as treasurer. Elections were held during the Governing Board’s March meeting due to company staffing changes.

“I’m thrilled to lead the board into 2022, which so far, is a challenging year at the state and federal levels. We have an engaged RISE Governing Board to guide RISE through the tough issues the specialty industry is facing and to support the association’s work to promote the benefits of our products,” Larson said.

The Governing Board elected two new members, Barbara Aguiar (BASF) and Shayne Wetherall (AMGUARD). Members continuing their terms serving on the governing board include:

  • Daryl Allen, Corteva Agriscience
  • Kathy Bishop, Lebanon Seaboard Corporation
  • Bill Culpepper, SePRO Corporation
  • John Johnson, Prokoz, Inc.
  • Scott Lazarczyk, SBM Life Sciences
  • Todd Mason, Sipcam Agro USA
  • Scott Reasons, Syngenta
  • Brian Rowan, SiteOne Landscape Supply
  • Nadia Sinno, FMC Corporation
Karen Larson

Project EverGreen partners with I Want to Mow Your Lawn

The New Jersey-based non-profit was founded in 2020 by Brian Schwartz.

Project Evergreen recently partnered with I Want to Mow Your Lawn.

Like Project EverGreen’s GreenCare for Troops, which provides complimentary lawn care and basic landscape services to families of deployed military personnel, I Want to Mow Your Lawn provides complimentary lawn mowing services to senior citizens, military veterans, disabled and under-resourced individuals and families. The New Jersey-based non-profit was founded in 2020 by Brian Schwartz.

“Forming an alliance to help more military families, veterans and other deserving individuals made sense for many reasons,” said Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen. “Our two organizations together can cast a wider net and help more families and individuals enjoy all the benefits healthy, accessible green spaces have to offer.”

Both non-profits serve a nationwide audience and collectively will strive to expand the bandwidth and awareness of both programs. Fluctuations in the availability and location of both volunteers and families create an ebb and flow that is dependent upon new volunteers joining these initiatives and delivering the gift of a well-maintained healthy yards and landscapes.

These initiatives provide the platform for individuals and businesses with the skills and bandwidth needed to maintain healthy lawns, which in turn deliver peace of mind to families during stressful times such as deployments or rehabbing from a service-related injury. The alliance will work to raise the profile and availability of the programs to fill current gaps and the opportunity for new volunteers to give back to their communities.

“We’re honored to officially partner with Project EverGreen to create synergies between our two organizations. The partnership will multiply efforts to provide relief for families of active military and give back to those who have proudly served our country,” Schwartz said. “It’s our way to say thank you for the service and sacrifices families make to protect our freedoms. We never take that for granted.”

SiteOne partners with Arborgold Software

This new partnership allows Arborgold users to link to their SiteOne account, providing real-time pricing for quotes and proposals.

SiteOne Landscape Supply adds Arborgold Software to its business management software solutions for landscaping customers. For more than 25 years, Arborgold has supported landscape business owners through their industry software for streamlined operations and improved productivity.

“We are proud to work with Arborgold to provide customers with a cohesive experience to manage their landscape business,” said Sean Kramer, CIO at SiteOne Landscape Supply. “At SiteOne, we are committed to empowering customers to take control of their business. By consolidating platforms, we offer a one-stop solution to increase profitability and efficiency.”

This new partnership allows Arborgold users to link to their SiteOne account, providing real-time pricing for quotes and proposals. Arborgold users will save time and money with access to SiteOne’s most up-to-date material pricing, making it easier to focus on growing their business.

“Partnering with SiteOne, the industry’s largest landscape supply distributor in the United States, gives Arborgold clients access to real-time product pricing so they can quickly generate accurate estimates and proposals, create purchase orders and follow the procurement workflow through Arborgold,” said Ed Rockhill, COO at Arborgold. “Arborgold’s clients have come to expect additional features and functionality that increase the overall value of their subscription, such as the SiteOne partnership that offers clients a more seamless estimating, job management and supply chain experience.”

Arborgold and SiteOne accounts can be linked by visiting SiteOne’s Business Management Center and following the integration directions.

AGZA, NALP partner on zero-emissions transition

Zero-emissions equipment is the hope for the future, but the associations say the industry must do so responsibly.

The American Green Zone Alliance and the National Association of Landscape Professionals will work together on an approach to the responsible transition from gas to zero-emission equipment in the landscape industry.

“The industry is committed to making a transition to zero-emission equipment in a time frame that is feasible,” said Britt Wood, NALP CEO. “Unfortunately, this is not just a light switch to turn on and off as landscape businesses will have to invest in new and more expensive equipment and build the infrastructure required to power the batteries needed for commercial operations.”

AGZA and NALP believe that the transition to zero-emission equipment will require:

 

  • Education and workforce development training
  • Infrastructure support including the capacity to charge the equipment within the community electric grid, at contractor’s facilities and in vehicles
  • The knowledge and capacity for equipment dealers to maintain the equipment in a timely manner
  • The availability of battery-powered landscape equipment without supply-chain issues
  • Proper funding through tax credits and rebate programs

“The American Green Zone Alliance is neutral on regulation, bans and restrictions, but instead prefers a solutions-based approach that involves the carrot versus a stick approach to help the landscape industry transition into lower-impact technologies,” said Daniel Mabe. AGZA president.

NALP and AGZA will work together with federal, state and local policymakers to provide the resources and training needed to transition to battery-powered equipment.

“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach as different geographic regions of the country have different landscape equipment needs,” Wood said. “This transition will take time, and we look forward to working with AGZA, the landscape industry, and policymakers on solutions.”

Central Turf & Irrigation Supply acquires Irrigation Supply

This expands the company into Ohio with newly acquired locations near Columbus and Cleveland.

Central Turf & Irrigation Supply, a North American customer-focused wholesale distributor of irrigation and landscape supplies, announces the acquisition of Irrigation Supply Inc., with two locations in Ohio; serving Columbus, Cleveland and the surrounding areas.

The two newly remodeled Ohio locations will offer a more robust, full-service experience for local green industry professionals. The two locations will now have expanded hours and be open six days a week in season. In addition, customers will have access to more products and categories, the largest selection of in-stock inventory, hundreds of leading manufacturer brands, and services such as same day delivery, business and marketing resources, and category subject matter experts for onsite training and troubleshooting.

“The timing was right for Central to acquire Irrigation Supply, not just for the customers but for the industry,” said Bob Hobar on his decision to sell Irrigation Supply Inc. “The additional product and service offerings is a wonderful thing for our customers. Central will enable them to access everything they need for their businesses to be successful—products, training, and business resources. Central will be their partner for success. The future is bright for the Green Industry in the state of Ohio.”

Hobar and partners purchased Irrigation Supply in 2003 from founder David Vanderwist. Irrigation Supply Inc. has a renowned reputation for service excellence and has served the irrigation contractor in Cleveland and Columbus areas for more than 40+ years carrying professional products in irrigation, lighting, and fountains/water gardens.

“As a family-owned and operated business, Central believes in strong partnerships to help our customers grow and be successful. That’s why we’re so excited to be able to serve and support new and existing customers in Ohio with solutions across irrigation, landscape, lighting, hardscape, and more,” said Bernardo Luciano, president of Central Turf & Irrigation Supply. “As a former contractor, I understand the importance of being able to get the products and help you need, when you need it. This is why we continually focus on our combination of customer-centered solutions, fully stocked warehouses, and one-stop shopping. We are thrilled to bring this approach to Ohio as we continue to increase our footprint in the Midwest and support the growth of the green industry.”