Real estate executive has high hopes for landscaping start-up

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Phil Wood founded United Landscape last year and hopes to make a number of acquisitions by the end of 2021.

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March 8, 2021

Photo courtesy of Phil Wood

With a background in high-end residential real estate development as managing director of United Kingdom-based Catterson Wood, Phil Wood, pictured above, worked a lot with landscape professionals.

“A lot of developers, and obviously I knew lots of developers, they used to treat landscaping as almost an afterthought for development,” says Wood, now the founder of southeast Florida-based United Landscape. “I always knew that the landscaping scheme needed to be an integral part of all designs that are as important as the buildings we were putting up.”

With that perspective on landscaping, and just an overall interest in the United States landscaping market, Wood made the decision around the middle of last year to form United Landscape.

Wood tapped into some industry knowledge with this venture. Dean Murphy, former Terracare Associates and Monarch Landscape Companies executive, and Rick Cuddihe, president at Lafayette Consulting Co., are serving as non-executive directors.

“I think the team we’ve brought in, they’ve obviously got an enormous amount of experience with mergers and acquisitions and deal-making and raising finance, but we really wanted them to like the industry as well,” Wood says. “Aside from Dean and Rick, all the other guys we’ve got in are really excited about the industry, which is really important for us moving forward.”

Wood says a minimum of five acquisitions by the end of 2021 is attainable to come under the United Landscape umbrella. He says United Landscape is a financial sponsor group, which means that he works with a pool of funding sources – rather than operating as a single fund.

He’s targeting companies in the $2-$5 million range with locations in central and southern Florida and a focus on commercial maintenance because of the recurring revenue, but also seeks to provide a wide range of green industry services and with residential customers.

Phil Wood is targeting companies in the $2-$5 million range with locations in central and southern Florida.

“We obviously like those kinds of businesses who are heavily involved in (commercial maintenance), but we are looking at arborists, lawn care service, irrigation,” Wood says. “We really want to offer the full gamut of services, ultimately.”

He’s also looking for companies that wouldn’t need drastic changes.

“It’s about us making incremental changes rather than fundamental change to the business,” he says. “We don’t want to change what has made that business successful, but what we can do is offer our group’s operational, strategic and financial expertise to make those incremental changes, which I think make a big difference to the bottom line of those companies.

“In terms of making big changes, particularly with personnel, we see the personnel as the most important part of the business. It’s just about making improvements rather than (wholesale) changes to these businesses.”

Wood says the group is also flexible on what kind of owner is selling.

“If somebody wants to retire, we can deal with that,” he says. “If somebody is ambitious and they feel they’ve taken a company as far as they can and want a group like ours to help them go to the next level, we can do that. So, the idea is we want to approach each of these companies in quite a flexible manner.”

Visit united-landscape.com to learn more about the company.

Vermeer donates equipment for Make-A-Wish celebration

Vermeer Wisconsin, Vermeer Corporation and KS Energy gave the young man battling cancer tools of the trade to start a landscaping business.

PELLA, Iowa — At a recent Make-A-Wish Day celebration held at the Vermeer Wisconsin facility in Madison, Wisconsin, Edgar Contreras was presented with the tools of the trade he needs to turn his dream of owning and operating his own landscaping company into a reality. Contreras is a 19-year-old from Milwaukee who is battling thyroid cancer.

Orchestrated by Make-A-Wish Wisconsin, Contreras received a new Vermeer RTX250 pedestrian trencher, as well as a trailer to haul it with, an extended service package, an update to his truck’s towing package, a generator, personal protective equipment (PPE) and a variety of hand tools. Donations were made by Vermeer Wisconsin, Vermeer Corporation and KS Energy Services Inc.

While presenting Contreras with his new tools of the trade, Chris Brouwers with KS Energy and Bear Reynolds with Vermeer Wisconsin expressed their commitment to helping Contreras on this career path by offering operator training, business development consulting and help navigating the challenges of starting a company.

Edgar Contreras, 19, received a new trencher, and more equipment for his budding landscape business, through the Make-A-Wish initiative.
Photo courtesy of Vermeer

“Everyone at KS Energy and the Klumb family supports Make-A-Wish Wisconsin and the organization’s efforts to fulfill dreams of children and their families,” Brouwers said. “This unique wish is near and dear to our hearts. Edgar is a wonderful person who has risen to the challenges life has put in his way, and we’re confident he will be successful in the landscaping industry.”

According to Forrest Doolen, the director of marketing and communications for Make-A-Wish Wisconsin, the dream of starting a business is one Contreras shared with their team during his cancer treatment, but given the nature of his request, it took some time to grant.

“When Edgar said he wanted a trencher, we reached out to KS Energy, who in turn looped in the team at Vermeer Wisconsin and Vermeer Corporation,” he explained. “The three organizations worked together to make sure they were providing more than just a piece of equipment – but also giving him the tools he needs to establish a business and support along the way.”

Growing up helping his father install irrigation systems is what spurred Contreras’ dream of owning his own landscaping business. He determined that owning a trencher would be the best way to get started.

SavATree acquires Big Twigs in Michigan

This will become SavATree’s second office in Michigan and 51st branch office.

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. – SavATree, which provides professional tree, shrub and lawn care, has acquired Big Twigs Arboricultural Services of Orion, Michigan. This will become SavATree’s second office in Michigan and 51st branch office.

Big Twigs has operated in the Metro Detroit tri-county area with general tree care and plant health care services. In addition to the current service offerings, clients will now have access to a wider range of services including professional lawn care, tick and mosquito treatments, deer deterrents, organic options and consulting services.

“We’re thrilled to join forces with Big Twigs, a reputable company known for outstanding service,” said SavATree CEO Carmine Schiavone. “Building density in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties will provide clients with an enhanced portfolio of services as we continue to uphold an environmentally responsible approach.”

“SavATree shares our same philosophy and commitment to high-quality standards, making this a great fit," said Big Twigs owner Jon Knowlden. "I am confident that we will continue to provide our customers with top quality services.”

BrightView acquires Green Image in Las Vegas

The company also recently revealed its first-quarter numbers.

BLUE BELL, Pa. – BrightView Holdings has acquired Green Image based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“GTI and its more than 400 team members are a great strategic addition to our operations in the western U.S.,” said BrightView President and CEO Andrew Masterman. “They bring a solid base of maintenance operations plus an impressive capability in landscape development. This team of professionals has years of experience in horticulture, engineering, maintenance, design, architecture, and equipment management and I am pleased to welcome them to BrightView.”

Founded in 2004, Green Image works on both landscape development and maintenance, including HOA streetscapes and entries, parks, common areas, play structures, athletic fields and water features.

“We look forward to the new opportunities our people will have joining the BrightView team,” said GTI’s Brock Krahenbuhl. “It’s very exciting and we are ready for this new expansion in the landscape industry.”

Green Image was founded in 2004 and works on landscape development and maintenance projects in parks, athletic fields and HOA streetscapes.

The company also recently revealed its first quarter fiscal results from 2021. The highlights from the numbers include:

  • Total revenue of $554.4 million compared to prior year of $570.7 million.
  • Net loss of $12.0 million compared to prior year net loss of $12.6 million, an improvement of $0.6 million; and net loss margin of 2.2%, flat to prior year.
  • Adjusted EBITDA of $52.4 million compared to prior year of $51.7 million, an increase of $0.7 million.
  • Adjusted EBITDA Margin of 9.5%, an increase of 40 basis points compared to prior year of 9.1%.
  • Maintenance adjusted EBITDA of $49.6 million compared to prior year of $47.7 million.
  • Maintenance adjusted EBITDA margin of 11.9%, an increase of 50 basis points compared to prior year of 11.4%.
  • Completed four acquisitions since the beginning of fiscal 2021, with approximately $80 million in annualized revenue.

Unilock Founder Ed Bryant dies at 85

A celebration of life was held virtually on Feb. 20.

Ed Bryant, founder of Unilock, passed away at his home in Horseshoe Valley, Ontario, on Jan. 28, 2021.

Born on Nov. 30, 1935, in Edmonton, Bryant spent his early years in Alberta. After two years at the University of British Columbia he enlisted in the military and was eventually stationed overseas in Soest, Germany. Upon returning, he worked in B.C. and Alberta on the pipelines with Mannix, a career path that ultimately brought him to Toronto where he received training in computers. He used this knowledge to help create one of the first companies, Global Travel Computer Services, to offer computerized booking systems to the travel industry.

However, an encounter while Bryant was building his home in Horseshoe Valley, ultimately led him to set the wheels in motion for an entirely new market, now known as the North American Hardscape Industry. A Swiss stone mason who worked with Bryant on his Horseshoe Valley home convinced him that paving stones were the answer for his sloped driveway. Unfortunately, at the time, no one in North America was manufacturing paving stones. To Bryant, this seemed like an intriguing opportunity, and soon the company that would become Unilock was born.

With the help of his new friend, Fritz von Langsdorff, he raised the capital to purchase a new Hess multi-layer machine and began producing one product (UNI-Stone) in one color (natural), at scale. In Ontario, immigrants from Holland and Germany took an interest in becoming paver installation contractors. Bryant’s company helped train them, promoting the German DIN standard for pavers to ensure the quality of installations. In the late 1970s, Bryant and von Langsdorff traveled to the U.S. and formed the Uni-Group, first uniting companies who had purchased licenses to manufacture the UNI-Stone, and then adding other unique paver shapes.

Soon, Bryant had evolved Unilock from a manufacturing company to a marketing organization with full color product catalogs, installation videos, advertising campaigns and programs such as the Unilock Authorized Contractor program. In the 1980s, additions were made to manufacturing plants in Ontario, and new locations were opened in Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit and New York, followed by Cleveland and Boston in the 1990s.

Bryant and his beloved wife, Heather, built Unilock into one of the most respected paving stone manufacturers in the world. In 2012, Bryant received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, an honor bestowed upon Canadians for significant achievements, in recognition of his business success and philanthropy.

Bryant is predeceased by his wife of 31 years, Heather; and son, Ted Bryant; husband of Mary Bryant, and loving father of Roland Wood (Rita), Stacy Bryant, Jeannie Slade (Paul), Andrew Bryant (Kristina) and Sydney Bryant Kodatsky (Alec). He will be sadly missed by his beloved aunts, Marge Woods, Norma Catrano and (late) Margaret “Peggy” Allan; siblings, Rick Bryant (Nancy), Sandra Wood (Stan), Lincoln Bryant and Beverley Bryant (Loretta), nieces, nephews, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins and friends.

Schill Grounds Management acquires The Ohio Valley Group’s commercial division

Andy and Kathleen Dangelo plan to focus on residential, design/build and their Sapphire Creek Winery.

NORTH RIDGEVILLE, Ohio – Schill Grounds Management has purchased the commercial division of The Ohio Valley Group in a carve-out acquisition that expands Schill’s service area to the east side of Cleveland.

Schill will take over all of The Ohio Valley Group’s commercial customer accounts for office, retail, mixed-use and industrial properties, while the owners of the family-run business will continue to serve residential accounts and focus more of their time on other entrepreneurial endeavors. About a dozen employees of The Ohio Valley Group will join the Schill family, and Schill will gain equipment and use of a portion of their existing facilities and office space.

Schill purchased Marion, Ohio-based McCoy Landscape Services last year and is actively seeking additional acquisitions within the commercial landscape space in Ohio and beyond.

“We are excited to welcome these new Ohio Valley Group employees and customers to the Schill family,” said Jerry Schill, president and co-founder of Schill Grounds Management. “We look forward to working with our new teammates to provide our new customers with high-quality, year-round landscaping services.”

Selling the commercial division to Schill was part of a purposeful succession plan for The Ohio Valley Group owners Andy and Kathleen Dangelo.

Drawing on their love of horticulture, winemaking and travel, the Dangelos have created a winery and event space called Sapphire Creek Winery & Gardens. The Dangelos plan to focus on residential landscape maintenance and design/build projects through The Ohio Valley Group while expanding Sapphire Creek Winery.

“After spending more than 30 years growing our business and investing in our employees and customers, we are delighted to leave our commercial division in the hands of someone who will nurture it and care for it as much as we have,” said Andy Dangelo, president of The Ohio Valley Group. “Kathleen and I are very impressed with the Schill organization and thankful for the opportunity to spend more time growing our new business, Sapphire Creek.”

Gore joins Takeuchi

Luschen Gore will serve as the company’s Mid-Atlantic regional business manager.

ATLANTA – Luschen “Lou” Gore has joined Takeuchi-US as its new regional business manager for the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio. Gore will be responsible for all sales development and activity in that multi-state region, including dealer development, dealer recruitment, inventory control, collections, forecasting, program promotion and communication.

“Lou brings more than 20 years of industry experience working with dealer networks, dealer development and financial support,” said Henry Lawson, director of sales for Takeuchi-US. “His sales background, strategic-planning experience and impressive track record make him an excellent fit for his new role with Takeuchi. We look forward to his contributions and welcome him to the Takeuchi family.”

A resident of Fort Mill, S.C., Gore comes to Takeuchi from his previous position as assistant vice president of OEM sales at TCF Inventory Finance. Prior to his tenure there, he spent nearly a decade with Textron Corporation in a variety of roles including director of finance, territory sales manager, channel development manager and sales director.

“I’ve spent most of my career in sales, and I understand the importance of being a highly motivated, progressive team player,” said Gore. “I’m eager to apply my equipment knowledge, channel management experience and problem-solving skills to assist Takeuchi dealers and customers throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.”

Josh Willey named to 40 Superstars Under 40 list

Willey is the Green Lawn Fertilizing/Green Pest Solutions senior vice president of operations.

Josh Willey, the Green Lawn Fertilizing/Green Pest Solutions senior vice president of operations, was named to Chester County’s 40 Superstars Under 40 List by Vista.Today.

The 2021 List of Vista Millennial Superstars celebrates Chester County’s business and professional leaders under the age of 40.

“Josh is just an overall great person both personally and professionally. Josh is an incredible leader. He has made an impact at Green Lawn Fertilizing and Green Pest Solutions since his first day and has been instrumental in helping build our leadership team and drive continuous improvement in all aspects of our business,” said President/Owner Matt Jesson.

Willey has put an emphasis on training, development and education. He created a leadership development program at Green Lawn and Green Pest to assist front line employee’s development into management. In October 2019, Josh completed a three month executive education program at Stanford University.

“It’s an honor to be listed among this group of 40 young professionals who are having a huge impact on Chester County businesses," Willey said. "I certainly would not be where I am today without the help of countless colleagues throughout my career and I try whenever possible to pay things forward by helping others advance their careers."

Kubota updates wheel loader lineup

The new R540 and R640 models feature increased life performance and panoramic views.

GRAPEVINE, Texas – Kubota Tractor Corporation announced an update to its wheel loader lineup with the launch of the new R540 and R640 models. The next-generation wheel loaders are available in both canopy and cab models and feature improved visibility, enhanced operator comfort and increased performance over the previous R30 Series models. Designed with landscape, residential and commercial construction operators in mind, the new R540 and R640 wheel loaders will be available at dealerships beginning in March 2021.

“Kubota dedicated a substantial amount of field research in the engineering upgrades that went into the new R540 and R640; they are built with operator comfort and productivity in mind,” said Patrick Baker, Kubota construction equipment product manager. “These new models have an incredible amount of space and power for a compact machine. Plus, with the enlarged front window and full-sized right-side window, they offer an unparalleled view of the worksite.”

Engineered to meet the demands of the jobsite, both the R540 and R640 provide increased weight and improved lift performance over the previous generation. Featuring a 64-horsepower Tier 4 Final engine, the R640 boasts an operating weight of 11,563 pounds and delivers a maximum breakout force of 9,869 pounds and 8,161 pounds of lifting capacity. With a 54-horsepower Tier 4 Final engine, the R540 has an operating weight of 10,285 pounds and delivers a maximum breakout force of 8,183 pounds and 6,767 pounds of lifting capacity.

Kubota’s new wheel loader lineup is already available at dealerships nationwide.

The new R540 and R640 wheel loaders feature several updates that improve visibility and safety for operators. Cab models for both the R540 and R640 offer a panoramic perspective of the environment with an enlarged front window and a new full-sized, all-glass right-side window that is the same size as the entrance door, providing 360-degree visibility around the machines. The new right-side window also allows greater visibility of the front-right tire for better maneuverability.

The arms of the R540 and R640 have been redesigned for better visibility when connecting attachments with the hydraulic coupler, enabling operators to connect attachments without getting out of the cab. With new delta-shaped loader arms that run parallel and become narrow at the cab and widen at the end of the loader arms, operator visibility is enhanced when the bucket is lifted at full height. The R540 and R640 also feature standard LED working lights, a transition from halogen lights, making the equipment well-suited for low light operation.

Kubota’s new R540 and R640 wheel loaders include comfort features designed to reduce operator fatigue and boost productivity. By moving the reconfigured console and switch layout to the right side of the cabin, operators have more foot and leg room, and all controls are just a finger touch away. With the multi-function control lever, all major loader functions and operational functions can be accomplished with one hand.