Monthly Archives: August 2015

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Toro beats summer expectations

Ample rain, healthy green lawns and preorders for snow equipment helped Toro Co. deliver a strong quarter that beat expectations and allowed it to raise its full-year guidance, company officials said Thursday, a day after the company announced a significant leadership change.

 
Toro Co. promoted veteran executive Richard M. Olson to the role of president and chief operating officer, a move that positions him in line as a likely successor to chief executive and chairman Michael J. Hoffman.
 
Olson, 51, joined Toro 29 years ago and is currently its group vice president of international and micro-irrigation businesses and the head of global distributor development.
 
In his new role, Olson will oversee all Toro businesses and global operations and continue reporting to Hoffman.
 
For the full story, on startribune.com, click here.

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Fungicide receives federal registration

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – PBI-Gordon Corporation and Ishihara Sangyo Kaisha (ISK) of Osaka, Japan, announced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) federal registration of Kabuto Fungicide SC for preventative and curative dollar spot control in the United States’ professional turf management industry. 

“The EPA registration of Kabuto is the final step in bringing this proven performer to golf course supervisors and lawn care professionals,” says Tom Hoffman, senior vice president and general manager for PBI-Gordon. “Kabuto joins Segway Fungicide SC to give Gordon’s Professional a powerful roster for controlling two of the most damaging and expensive diseases in turfgrass.”
 
Kabuto features the active ingredient isofetamid, which is proven in university research and end-user trials to effectively control dollar spot and manage resistance concerns. PBI-Gordon currently markets ISK products Segway Fungicide SC and Katana Turf Herbicide. 
 
“Dollar spot is one of the most common turfgrass diseases in North America,” says Jim Goodrich, product manager for fungicides, insecticides and plant growth regulators at PBI-Gordon. “More money is spent controlling dollar spot than any other turf disease in the U.S. Kabuto will give turf management professionals a powerful tool to control it.” 

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Acquistions from the buyer’s perspective

With the economy continuing to improve, the amount of companies being bought and sold will surely heat up. Two companies who have incorporated mergers as a growth strategy were part of Jim Huston’s brainstorming session, “Going M.A.D.” in Raleigh, N.C.

Brian DuMont, owner of Yard-Nique based in Raleigh, N.C., and Brian Lemmermann, owner of Somerset Landscape based in Phoenix, talked about how they’ve approached mergers in recent years.

Yard-Nique has seven locations across the Southeast U.S. and revenues approaching $25 million. Three of those seven locations were acquired, with two happening in the past 16 months. Somerset has grown from almost $7 million in 2011 to $35 million this year. Lemmermann’s acquired 10 companies since 2011 and currently has offices in California, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Nevada, along with the Arizona office.

Here’s a look into how both view the acquisition process.

Know what you want. DuMont is usually looking at 2-3 companies at a time. He is open-minded about deals, but always has a strong idea about what he is looking for in a company. Whether it’s a strong culture, the equipment or the book of business, you should have clear priorities, he says.

Spread the word. DuMont and Lemmermann both will send word out with people they meet in the industry, stating they are in acquisition mode. DuMont will also task branch managers with bringing back three possible companies that fill Yard-Nique’s requirements. If DuMont can’t pay off an acquisition in two to four years, he won’t pursue a purchase.

Help and hurt. When it comes to brokers, DuMont says:
• A good broker is worth every penny.
• Bad brokers can break up a deal
• When not using a broker, things can get emotional and expectations and demands can become unrealistic.

No wholesale changes. When he is in discussion with an owner about buying a company, he is clear he doesn’t want to buy it and then completely erase what the owner has done. He says when he lays out this plan, the owner is more inclined to sell and at a better price because DuMont values the history of the company. “The owners care about what they built,” he says.

Curious visitor. As far as visiting a company to evaluate it, Lemmermann and DuMont leave it up to the owner of the company on how Lemmermann and DuMont’s presence will be explained. For example, one owner introduced Lemmermann as the owner’s friend from Phoenix who wanted to check out his company.

After the sale. DuMont says he has handled post-acquisition incorporation both ways. He’s changed the name and leadership of an acquired company and rebranded the company as Yard-Nique, and he’s left a company’s brand alone. It all depends on how strong the brand is and how much he likes the leaders. Both Lemmermann and DuMont say they have learned a lot of new systems and practices from companies they’ve acquired. They both said you have to be humble and can’t come in right away and start implementing your systems when the company you’re acquiring may have better ones in place.

The first visit. When first visiting the site of a company he’s acquired, Lemmermann doesn’t want to “come in and make a splash.” The first action he takes is getting the buy-in from the lower and middle levels of the organization. The worst case scenario for Lemmermann is a manager who wants to start his own company and take the crews with him. If he can get immediate buy-in from the crews, he has a better chance of avoiding that situation. The first weekend after he acquired a company in Las Vegas, he spent time with the employees below the supervisor/managerial level in the office and in the field.
“We come in really softly,” Lemmermann says. “We start with easy suggestions that can help operations, but we are taking just as many positive systems back to the parent company.”
DuMont approaches the first post-acquisition meeting by telling employees he admires what they’ve built and he has no plans to make wholesale changes. Yard-Nique also likes to start a newly-acquired company with a win like purchasing new mowers or painting some trucks that looked bad.

Organic growth. While acquiring companies is a great way to grow, it shouldn’t be the only way you increase your revenue, Lemmermann says. “If you aren’t able to grow organically, any acquisition can quickly become a liability and put your entire organization in jeopardy,” he says. “Acquisitions can be dangerous and are only a piece of a strong growth plan.”

L&L also visited two of Yard-Nique’s offices in the Raleigh, N.C.-area, including the corporate headquarters. Here’s what we learned.

Onsite fueling. Workers fill up in the morning and fill up every truck and machine before leaving. This avoids crew making any stops for fuel during their routes.

Assigned parking. Crews have assigned parking spots for trucks, which makes morning roll-out less chaotic. Every project manager has a pod to store equipment like blowers and excess materials near his crews’ parking spots. Each project manager averages about three crews.

Breaking news. Every office has a Y&N newsboard where news about employees can be posted. This is a place where the company can share good news about the company and individual employees. The information is collected and posted by the branch manager.

Ahead of the rest. A construction member can earn a Y/N sticker on his hard hat for going above and beyond. The stickers are a public way the company can acknowledge workers who have went above and beyond. The company also gives out awards, like a new pair of safety glasses, for workers who have been excelling on the job. This replacement policy is no additional cost to the employee for as long as they are employed.

Dressed for success. The company makes all new laborers buy five uniform shirts as a way to show the worker is committed to Yard-Niue. The shirts cost about $5 and can be deducted from paychecks. Once the shirt becomes worn out the laborer can trade in the shirt for a new one at no cost.

Looking good. The company is still in the process of painting 100 trucks in the past year and a half with the new company color (orange) and new company logo. “I wanted to set us apart from the typical brown and green,” DuMont says.

House ain’t a home. The company’s main headquarters is spread out between three houses built in 1865, 1901 and 1920. The houses were considered inhabitable, and DuMont bought them and rehabbed them.

Organized from the start. The company hired a human resources director, Kelly Somers, two years ago, and among the many ways the hire has improved the company is the onboarding process that was installed after Somers joined. When a new employee starts, they are set up with everything they need on the first day. Whether it’s new uniforms, a new truck or a laptop, the items are ready for use on the worker’s first day. The company has not yet measured if this has had a direct ROI, but COO Ryan Wells has heard from new employees how much they appreciate the organized process.

 


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Raycom Sports launches new app

WENDELL, N.C. – Raycom Sports, in partnership with KIOTI Tractor, has launched the ACC QB Challenge Presented by KIOTI Tractor. The football gaming app, now available for free download through Apple and Google Play app stores, allows fans to compete in passing challenges as their favorite school. As part of the app’s launch, KIOTI is offering fans an opportunity to win a KIOTI CS2410 tractor with the 2015 ACC QB Challenge – KIOTI Tractor Giveaway. 
 
“We are proud to continue to push the envelope in engaging mobile platforms for college sports with ACC QB Challenge Presented by KIOTI Tractor,” said Trey Walters, senior director of new media for Raycom Sports. “Following our success kicking field goals with ACC Football Challenge the last couple years, the new passing style app takes the next step in the evolution of college sports mobile gaming.” 
 
The ACC QB Challenge Presented by KIOTI Tractor features first-person football passing style game play with receivers running a variety of route combinations – the goal being to hit as many receivers and be as accurate as possible. ACC QB Challenge game formats will include head-to-head, season, rivalry and practice modes. 
 
The rivalry mode allows fans to represent their schools and play against the fan base of their team’s ACC opponent that week with score updates provided in the app, online and in ACC Network broadcasts. Season mode will let the user play their team’s ACC Football season, facing off against both home and away opponents with the chance to advance to the ACC Championship game.  
 
Within each format, fans can share scores on Facebook and Twitter, as well as keep track of overall performance on conference and school leaderboards. Throughout the season, the ACC, along with KIOTI Tractor, will be engaging users in social contests to post high scores and compete for prizes. 
 
“We are excited to partner with Raycom Sports to be the presenting sponsor for their newest ACC football gaming app,” said Peter Dong Kyun Kim, president and chief executive officer of Daedong-USA, KIOTI Tractor Division. “This partnership is a great addition to our overall branding strategy as it creates a unique and integrated opportunity to support and engage our dealers, customers and fans with the KIOTI brand in one of the fastest-growing handheld digital arenas.”
 

Coinciding with launch of the app, the sweepstakes promotion allows fans 18 and older to enter to win a new CS2410 KIOTI tractor, complete with mid-mount mower and front-end loader. Fans may enter through the app or online Sept. 5 through Nov. 30. There is no purchase necessary to win and only one entry per valid email address will be accepted. For full contest rules and to enter online, visit www.theACC.com/tractor


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Kohler Engines announces new partnership

Kohler Engines has announced a new partnership with Milwaukee Kickers Soccer Club, one of the largest and most respected youth soccer organizations in the country. The multi-year sponsorship, which took effect August 1, 2015, includes the naming rights of Uihlein Soccer Park’s Stadium in Milwaukee, Wis. The newly named “Kohler Engines Stadium” seats 3,000 people and hosts a number of major tournaments each year including the WIAA Boys and Girls High School State Soccer Championships. 

 
With the new sponsorship, Kohler Engines will be supporting the largest non-profit youth soccer program in the state. The Milwaukee Kickers serves the needs of more than 6,000 families in the greater Milwaukee area, including the families of many Kohler employees.
 
“We’re pleased to be working with the Milwaukee Kickers organization and we’re excited about seeing our brand highlighted at Uihlein Soccer Park,” said Brian Melka, president of Kohler Engines. “This is an ideal partnership for us because Kohler Engines makes products that are targeted to – and widely utilized by – the families who pack the stands at Uihlein as well as the professionals who attend to the park’s well-manicured fields.”
 
“We’re thrilled to have the support of Kohler Engines,” said Alvaro Garcia-Velez, executive director of the Milwaukee Kickers. “Kohler Engines Stadium will be widely utilized by our Milwaukee Kickers’ teams and it will also host rugby, field hockey, lacrosse, and football teams that play at the local, regional, national, and international levels. So, the generosity of Kohler Engines will directly benefit many thousands of athletes as well as fans both here in Wisconsin and beyond.”   

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NALP announces conference

HERNDON, Va. – The National Association of Landscape Professionals will host the Leaders Forum event (formerly Great Escape) in Los Cabos, Mexico, February 25-27, 2016. 

 
Leaders Forum will bring together many of the top CEOs, owners and leaders in landscape and lawn care for a few days of networking and education focused on enhancing leadership skills that lead to stronger companies and a stronger industry.
 
“The association is focused on increasing professionalism and providing education and networking of the highest quality in the industry and Leaders Forum is part of that mission,” said Sabeena Hickman, CAE, NALP CEO. “If you are looking to become one of the foremost leaders in this industry, or take your leadership skills to the next level, Leaders Forum is the place to do it. You’ll engage in discussions led by nationally recognized leadership experts as well as have the chance to mingle with the best of the best in the industry.”  
 
Leaders Forum also includes receptions, awards presentations and fun events and excursions. Many attendees bring their families or their top staff or sales teams to enjoy the upscale resort setting and network with others in the industry.
 
Leaders Forum will be held at the Hilton Beach & Golf Resort at Los Cabos, Mexico. Room reservations are now available.
 
Leaders Forum is approved for Landscape Industry Certified recertification at 1 CEU per hour of instruction attended.

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Take stock of seeds

Despite a hot, dry spring for growers and low carryover stock for suppliers, grass seed prices are stable and they should stay that way, seed companies say. Distributors and suppliers are finally rid of the excess seed they carried during and after the recession, pushing prices higher than they were five years ago, but now they’re staying steady.
 

Ebb and flow.

The markets are good, meaning carryover stock is low when it comes to elite and sod quality varieties. “There’s not really anybody that’s overstocked,” says Russ Nicholson, senior agronomist with Pennington Seed.

Tall fescue and ryegrass prices are up slightly due to a shortage of stock last year at Pennington, Nicholson says, adding that seed companies would like to get more inventory.

Pure Seed, however, had carryover of tall fescue last year which reduced prices a little. But salesperson Russ Hayworth says a 20-25 percent lighter than average harvest this year should even prices out.

Nicholson recommends booking good quality seed sooner rather than later due to availability. Many suppliers completely sold out last spring as farmers diversified their crops. In eastern Oregon and Washington, and in the Willamette Valley, other agricultural crops like hazelnuts and blueberries are gaining popularity.

Hayworth, however, says he doesn’t believe the loss of acres will have an effect on grass seed prices. “There’s always acres for grass seed it seems like,” he says. “It took a dent in it, but nothing that we’re seeing affects pricing or quality or anything like that. It just opens up different options for growers.”

But Nicholson believes that has pushed the price of seed up. “The farmer is a businessman,” he says. “They will put in what they can make the most money on and consequently to get them to grow turfgrass has become more and more expensive.”

That has pushed the price of seed higher than it was five or six years ago, but the economic recovery has also depleted overstock left when the market crashed in 2008. When the recession hit, seed production was at an all-time high, Nicholson says, and there was nowhere to sell it.

In Oregon, there weren’t a lot of alternative crops at the time and since grain prices weren’t good, farmers wanted to plant grass. “They wanted to plant more acres and, as an industry, honestly, we didn’t have a lot of self-control so all of us out there thought we could increase our sales by 20 percent,” says Aaron Kuenzi, executive vice president of Mountain View Seeds. “Well, obviously, only one company can increase their sales by 20 percent.”

Since farmers are usually under three- or five-year contracts, the seed kept coming in and distributors’ warehouses were filling up. Some companies even paid farmers to take grass out and it took until about 2013 for the inventory to clear out.
 

Dealing with drought.

As the drought continues in California, lawns are losing popularity, freeing up some seed for other parts of the country where the market is strong.

But with reduced yields due to a very hot, dry spring and summer, Hayworth says the factors should offset each other and prices will stay the same.

“Perennial ryegrass inventory before the new crops is limited,” he says. “Then again, the good crop perennial is going to be on the lighter side so I think demand will stay strong and pricing will stay the same or maybe slightly higher than last year due to a shorter crop.”

High temperatures in early June stressed crops and stunted normal growth, Hayworth says.

He predicts lower yields this year due to undeveloped and small seeds, meaning more seeds per pound. In areas of California where irrigation is not allowed, yields are low, so Bermudagrass and Kentucky bluegrass have been hit the hardest, Kuenzi says.

“The expectation in the industry three months ago was that prices could soften but because of the drought and the dry weather right now, we’re saying you won’t see a lot of softening happening. You’ll just see stable prices,” he says.

“Depending on how bad this drought is and how long it continues, there’s a chance you could even see prices strengthen a little bit because seed’s not available.”
 

Looking forward.

Elite and sod-quality varieties are getting harder to come by, partly because it’s getting harder to achieve high quality, Hayworth says. The sod market has been strong in the last year and a half, which means sod producers are buying the best materials.

The trend of the future is drought-tolerant varieties, according to Hayworth. He’s seeing an increased interest in varieties approved by the Turfgrass Water Conservation Alliance.

Nicholson says there has been a lot of development in coated seeds to not only help with germination, but also establishment, nutrient management and more.

“I see more of that going into the professional market,” he says. “In the retail market, that seems to be becoming the norm.”
 


 

Aerator/Dethatcher Roundup

Classen TA-17D

The pitch: Classen PowerSteer Aerators feature split-drive technology, allowing you to steer, turn and aerate an entire job without removing the tines from the ground.

  • For non-stop aeration, it has “all-tine” propulsion, meaning every tine is used to propel the unit forward or in reverse.
  • It has a 16.25-inch aerating width and is able to cover 19,333 sq.ft/hr.
     

For more information: Classenturfcare.com

 

Exmark 30-inch Stand-on Aerator

The pitch: The Exmark 30-inch Stand-on Aerator features a split-tine design to allow easy turning with tines engaged.

  • 7.5-mph top speed
  • Mass is centralized directly over the 48 coring tines for maximum core depth consistency, which is adjustable from 2 to 5 inches.
     

For more information: Exmark.com

 

Ryan Ren-O-Thin Power Rake

The pitch: Remove thatch buildup with the redesigned Ren-O-Thin Power Rake.

  • •Features interchangeable, high-carbon steel reels for quick customization.
  • An ergonomic, multi-position handle can also be adjusted for user comfort.
  • Users can fine-tune depth from 1 inch above the ground to 7/8-inch below.
     

For more information: Ryanturf.com

 

Toro 30-inch Stand-On Aerator

The pitch: Toro 30-inch stand-on aerators combine heavy-duty commercial durability with features that make any aeration job easier.

  • Has ground speeds of up to 7.5 miles per hour and the ability to adjust plug length on the fly.
  • Also features an ergonomic foot pedal that raises and lowers tines easily.
  • The floating operator platform isolates vibrations, reducing operator fatigue and ultimately increasing jobsite productivity.
     

For more information: toro.com

 

Turfco TurnAer XT5

The pitch: Turfco’s TurnAer XT5 steerable and reversible aerator now offers increased speed, a new weight system and a new gear ratio system, improving efficiency and hill performance.

  • The weight system allows operators to adjust weight in the back of the aerator, improving control on hills, and the gear ratio system gives operators 14 percent more speed.The TurnAer XT5 also uses Turfco’s steerable aerator technology with a new variable-speed hydrostatic drive system.
  • Operators can steer and reverse with tines in the ground eliminating need to stop, lift and turn with each pass.
     

For more information: turfcodirect.com

 


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NALP announces new ambassadors

HERNDON, Va. – The National Association of Landscape Professionals has recently named two new ambassadors to the Foundation. Each of the following ambassadors pledged $25,000 to award scholarships to students enrolled in landscape contracting and/or horticulture programs at two-year or four-year colleges and universities:

 
– Jack Ingels Scholarship – Brett Lemcke, R.M. Landscape, Hilton, N.Y., and Phill Sexton, WIT Companies, Albany, N.Y.
– Stephen Hillenmeyer Landscape Services Scholarship – Stephen Hillenmeyer, Hillenmeyer Landscape Services, Lexington, Ky.
 
“On behalf of the National Association of Landscape Professionals Foundation, I want to thank our newest ambassadors for their generous support of the next generation of industry leaders and for helping us to reach further milestones,” said Miles Kuperus, Landscape Industry Certified, Foundation president. 
 
The Foundation is more than halfway through its five-year campaign to raise the fund balance from $2 million to $5 million. To date, the fund has grown to $4.1 million.

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Plantscapers acquires company

IRVINE, Calif. – Plantscapers recently expanded west to the Palm Springs region by acquiring Designer Greens, a longstanding industry leader in the area.  

 
Plantscapers opened its satellite office in Palm Desert, Calif. on August 1 with a client showroom and warehouse, along with a gathering place for a local team of technicians and customer service professionals. An open house is planned for clients, prospective clients, local designers and architects for the beginning of next year.
 
This acquisition allows the Irvine, Calif. headquartered company to continue its southern California footprint. Plantscapers has an expansive residential and commercial client portfolio that spans from north of Los Angeles to San Diego. Introducing Palm Springs and Coachella Valley into the company was a logical next step for the growth-focused Plantscapers.
 
“We already have several clients in the area,” said Julie Farrow, CEO of Plantscapers. “And with the addition of the amazing clientele of Designer Greens, Plantscapers Inc. can continue its creative interior plantscaping designs utilizing live and replica plants, living wall installations, patioscaping, and weekly plant maintenance across more of Southern California.”
 
Farrow and Greg Eberly, president of Designer Greens, have been friends for over twenty years, attending industry education courses, sharing best practices, and working in non-profits together. When Eberly began to prepare for retirement, he knew there was only one company he could trust to operate Designer Greens, and that was Plantscapers. 
 
“Knowing retirement was on the horizon, I began searching for an A+ company with whom I could merge Designer Greens’ accounts,” said Eberly. “I feel so fortunate to have found a winner, a company owned by multi-decade personal and professional friends.”
 
On the same day of the Plantscapers’ acquisition, the company also launched a client-focused website which can be found online at: www.plantscapers.com.
 
Plantscapers’ Palm Springs area location is at 42280 Beacon Hill, D-8, Palm Desert, California, 92211. Phone 760-779-9700.

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Judge blocks EPA rule

The green industry scored a minor victory when a judge blocked President Obama’s push to extend the EPA’s reach to ditches and small streams to enforce clean water rules.

The issue was a point of emphasis for the National Assoication of Landscape Professionals at its Day on the Hill last month. NALP’s position was:
 
“Under the rule, permits maybe required for activities such as removing debris and vegetation from a ditch, applying pesticides, and building a fence or pond or be required by cities when discharging pollutants. Permitting can be a costly and time-consuming process that requires small businesses to hire attorneys and environmental consultants. In addition, the future development potential of certain land may be affected, which could diminish its value. Businesses also could be subjected to litigation under citizen suit provisions of the CWA.”
 
Click here to read the article. 

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