Photo courtesy of Ford

DETROIT – Ford is adding massive 7.3-liter gas engines and modern technological upgrades to its newest vehicles in the F-Series Super Duty pickup truck line, the company announced at a press event in January.

The new vehicles, set to hit the market later this fall, can be powered by the all-new V8 gas engine and a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Customers can also choose a 6.7-liter diesel engine or the standard 6.2-liter gas V8 once the trucks hit dealerships.

“The 7.3-liter V8 hits a sweet spot, we believe, for the customer,” said Dave Filipe, vice president for Ford’s powertrain engineering. “It (has) the right balance to give you more torque and maximum torque at the low speeds, and we’re going to make it compatible so that it works well within an F-250 Super Duty all the way up to an F-750. That’s so important to our fleet customers.”

The vehicles also feature enhanced technology like Pro Trailer Backup Assist to help drivers navigate tight spaces for all types of trailer styles, such as fifth-wheel and gooseneck trailers.

The pickups also include an embedded 4G LTE modem standard across every Super Duty, which will provide Wi-Fi access for up to 10 devices. The trucks will have wireless charging and USB-C ports as well.

The technology isn’t just for convenience and comfort – safety features like lane-keeping alerts will also notify the driver if they’re veering outside yellow lines. The trucks will again feature a Blind Spot Information System with trailer coverage and Pre-Collision Assist.

“When your truck is your livelihood, it’s not just yourself you’re protecting – you’re protecting your assets,” said Michael Pruitt, Super Duty chief engineer.

Pruitt also said there were a handful of landscape contractors on Ford’s 25-person Fleet Advisory Board, which features a cross-section of Ford commercial customers. Their feedback helped identify what the F-Series trucks had been missing in previous years, as well as features other trucks had that were ideal for landscapers.

“Sometimes in that landscaping area, you’ve got a pretty healthy trailer in the back,” Pruitt said. “Negotiating those trailers in driveways or where you’ve got to go can be a big task. I think our (backup assist) will be a big help, and of course, any time we’re bringing more power and more capability to those guys, that’s more they can put on that trailer. That’s work efficiency.”

Other features on the new Super Duty trucks include an electronically controlled transmission that allows drivers to pick drive modes like slippery, tow/haul, eco, deep sand and snow. There’s also an enhanced high-airflow grille on the front of the vehicles to improve powertrain cooling and new LED headlamps.

“We’re fortifying our truck lineup. We’re doing so with more power, more capability, more efficiency, no compromises,” said Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford North America. “Today’s story is all about work: How do we help our customers be more productive in their work, be more efficient in their work?”

Franklin Electric names new VP of sales

Ryan Johnson will work out of the Fort Wayne, Indiana, office as vice president of sales-US/Canada for the North America Water Systems Business Unit.

Franklin Electric named Ryan Johnson as the new vice president of sales-US/Canada for the North America Water Systems (NAWS) Business Unit. Johnson will manage all aspects of sales activities for the US and Canada markets. The company, which manufactures Little Giant water pumps, was founded in 1944.

Johnson has 20 years of industry experience in motors, sales and management, spending his entire career with Regal Beloit and General Electric. His background includes expertise in marketing, Six Sigma, operations, and in every aspect of the sales process, from direct field sales experience to sales management leadership.

“Ryan brings a proven track record of building strategies and sales teams focused on providing its customers with clear, differentiating value,” said Don Kenney, president, North America Water Systems and Vice President of Franklin Electric. “He is an operationally driven customer advocate that brings a fresh perspective being previously outside of the company. He has Midwest values, and understands the importance of building and managing fair and mutually beneficial partnerships. I have no doubt that Ryan brings the innovative outlook needed to support our progressing efforts as an organization.”

Husqvarna debuts newest chainsaws

The 572 XP and the 565 are new saws that highlight a series of products the company released in Asheville. By Jimmy Miller

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – On the same grounds where the nation's first forestry school was founded, Husqvarna officially introduced its five newest chainsaws to the North American market.

The entirely new 572 XP and 565 saws, as well as the updated 550 XP Mark II, 545 Mark II and T525, all feature higher cutting speeds and cutting capacities of their Husqvarna predecessors. The 572 XP and 565 also include improved AutoTune technology, which adjusts its carburetor based on air and fuel conditions every tenth of a second.

Photo courtesy of Jimmy Miller

Husqvarna also debuted a new line of Arborist Essentials and its C83, C85 and S93G X-Cut chains. The essentials pack includes new helmets designed for Class C or Class E use, as well as other basic equipment necessary for line setting and climbing. Meanwhile, the C83 (.050 gauge) and C85 (.058 gauge) are 3/8-inch full chisel chains, while the S93G is a semi-chisel chain. All three of the products are expansions to the preexisting X-Cut Series.

"Our commitment is to always deliver products that are relevant to our end users and provide the necessary productivity," said Per Kvarby, Husqvarna's global director of product management. "At the end of the day, it's about productivity. How much money can I earn as a professional user cutting down trees?"

Kvarby said the company weighed the needs of clients involved in both harvest forestry and urban forestry. Whereas many clients are still buying chainsaws for logging, Kvarby said more tree care specialists are keeping healthy green spaces within growing, urban cities.

With that in mind, Kvarby said the decision to create a variety in saws is because of the divergent needs of customers. Both the 572 XP and 565 are in the 70cc engine class, but the 572 XP is specifically designed for clients who require more power in the forestry segment. For users who don't need quite as much power and more maneuverability, the 565 may be best.

The 550 XP Mark II and 545 Mark II are redesigned from their previous versions and are best used on mid-sized trees, though the 545 offers slightly less power than the 550. The T525, the latest installment in Husqvarna's compact chainsaw line, is ideal for limbing jobs, as it features an easy connect to a climbing harness and is the company's lightest gas-powered chainsaw to date.

"We are proud to provide the latest, state-of-the-art technology any innovative solutions to both our harvest forestry customers as well as our urban forestry customers," Kvarby said. "(The saws are) specifically customized for that end user."

Christian Johnsson, the company's product management specialist, said Husqvarna considered six main areas when designing its new saws: cutting capacity, cooling capacity, air filtration system, improving AutoTune, power-to-weight ratio and cutting speed. The company upgraded its heat shields, air filters, and cylinder cooling technologies, plus added wear-resistant felling marks to help guide users during cuts. The AutoTune feature on some of the saws is also an improvement over previous iterations, as Husqvarna's AutoTune used to adjust the saw's carburetor once every second rather than once every .10 seconds.

"You could hear when it adjusts, but with these saws, it happens so fast you can't even hear it," Johnsson said. "To be able to take (our saws), develop them further, is quite impressive."

The new 572 XP is available now for $999.95 MSRP, while the new 565 can be purchased for $939.95. The 545 Mark II is listed at $539.95 and the 550 XP Mark II is at $599.95. The T525 is available for $489.95.

Landscape Workshop acquires Bayou Lawn & Landscape Services

Landscape Workshop has acquired certain assets of Bayou Lawn & Landscape Services (Bayou) based in Valparaiso, Florida. With this expansion to the Emerald Coast, Landscape Workshop will now have 10 branch locations throughout the Southeast.

Bayou was originally founded by Matt Schwab in 1995 before Jim Allen purchased the company in 1999. In addition to commercial landscape maintenance, Bayou’s client portfolio also includes a variety of residential properties along the Emerald Coast and surrounding areas.

After much deliberation by Allen, and with his impending retirement on the horizon, he decided to sell the company and certain Bayou assets to Landscape Workshop due to its reputation and 35-year record of professionalism. Allen plans to stay on board throughout the transition period, and Bayou’s Bruce Kennedy will join the Landscape Workshop team as an account manager.

Investment bank Benchmark International and the Anchors Smith Grimsley law firm represented Bayou in the transaction.

Aspen Grove Landscape Group acquires Long Brothers Landscaping

Aspen Grove Landscape Group acquired Long Brothers Landscaping, a family-owned business with more than three decades of experience.

Located in Raleigh, North Carolina, Long Brothers serves the Triangle and Triad regions and is the second North Carolina company that Aspen Grove has acquired.

“We are thrilled to bring in Long Brothers to the Aspen Grove family of landscape companies," said Aspen Grove President David Fleischner. “They are aligned with our mission and values of having the best support via the resources of our nationwide organization, combined with their dedicated expertise on a regional level. At Aspen Grove, we encourage communication and partnerships.”

“Our business was founded on the principles of hard work and dedication, and we couldn’t be happier to be joining Aspen Grove," said Stephen Wilson, Long Brothers Landscaping vice president of operations. "We look forward to working together to provide optimal performance for our customers in the Raleigh and surrounding regions.”

David J. Frank Landscape hires Joestgen as COO

The company’s founder passed away in February.

David J. Frank Landscape Contracting has hired John Joestgen to its newly created position of chief operating officer.

David J. Frank, the company's founder and CEO, passed away in February. His company ranked No. 77 on Lawn & Landscape's list of Top 100 companies in 2018. He was 69 years old.

Lawn & Landscape will have more on Frank’s life in a future issue of the magazine.

Joestgen has over 30 years of experience in the landscape industry, more than 20 of those in an executive capacity. As an Illinois-based executive vice president and chief operating officer, Joestgen was in charge of maintenance, construction, irrigation and snow operations for up to five branches.

These companies stretched from Milwaukee to Chicago to Indianapolis, with annual revenues exceeding $25 million.

Joestgen graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison with degrees in Landscape Architecture and Ornamental Horticulture.

Immediately after graduation, Joestgen started working as a field superintendent and estimator on large-scale commercial landscape projects in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Orlando.

His list of credentials include landscape industry certified professional, certified arborist, certified snow professional, and his 30-Hour Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification.

In addition, Joestgen has lent his expertise to the Illinois Green Industry Advisory Committee and the board of directors for the Illinois Turfgrass Foundation, among others.

He also has worked as a consultant for various municipalities, companies and individuals.

It’s been estimated that roughly 50,000 trees have been planted under Joestgen’s supervision. His understanding of tree biology, soils and fertilization, construction, maintenance, and sustainability led him to teach these five subjects as an adjunct instructor at Triton College.

“We are pleased to have someone of John’s caliber join our team of experts,” President David R. Frank said. “His experience will be integral in guiding our next generation of leaders to ensure our future success.”

Daybreaker Landscapes owner wins CASE contest grand prize

Jeff Rausch was selected as the winner of the 2019 Kickstart Landscape Business Development contest.

CASE Construction Equipment has announced Daybreaker Landscapes of Union, Illinois, as the grand prize winner of the 2019 Kickstart Landscape Business Development contest.

CASE Kickstart is a business development contest in which landscaping contractors throughout North America can win a suite of prizes aimed at improving both their technical work and their business practices.

Jeff Rausch of Daybreaker Landscapes was selected as the winner. The company specializes in full landscape and hardscape installation, lawn care and snow removal in Northern Illinois.

Daybreaker Landscapes was founded in 2010 after Rausch served four years in the Air Force.

As part of the package, Rausch will get:

  • A six-month lease on any CASE compact track loader paired with a CASE laser grading box with SiteControl.
  • A yearlong consultation with Ken Thomas and Ben Gandy of Envisor Consulting.
  • A full set of (6) Crusader Hammer Tools by Pave Tech, Inc.
  • Fleet management consultation and recommendations from CASE staff throughout 2019.
  • Custom-branded CASE apparel/uniforms for staff.
  • Up to five passes to GIE+EXPO 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky.

“The package that CASE has put together matching equipment with business consultation is exactly what I need at this stage in my business development,” Rausch said. “I started this business with no capital, no equipment – just a company name, a dream to be my own boss, and a strong desire for success.”

Business owners entered the contest by answering basic questions about their operation. For more information, visit CaseCE.com/landscaping.

H-2B lottery system modified for applications this July

OFLC wants feedback on this procedural change that takes the start date and filing date into heavier consideration.

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced updates to its procedures for processing H-2B applications.

Because of the intense competition for H-2B visas in recent years, there have been challenges to handle the increasingly large volume of H-2B applications filed on January 1 of each year. As a result of stakeholder comments and the most recent filing period in which the iCERT electronic filing system crashed due to the large volume of system user requests, the Office of Foreign Labor and Certification (OFLC) reassessed its procedures for processing H-2B applications.

OFLC announced that all H-2B applications filed on or after July 3, 2019 will be randomly ordered for processing based on the date of filing and the start date of work requested. OFLC will randomly order and process all of the H-2B applications requesting the earliest start date of work permitted under the semi-annual visa allocation (i.e., Oct. 1 or April 1) and filed during the first three calendar days of the regulatory time period for filing H-2B applications. Once first actions are issued, OFLC will randomly assign for processing all other H-2B applications filed on a single calendar day.

Scotts Miracle-Gro sells ownership stake in TruGreen

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company sold its approximate 30 percent stake in TruGreen to the majority owner in a transaction in which ScottsMiracle-Gro received approximately $234 million.

In 2016, the company contributed its wholly owned subsidiary, Scotts LawnService, into a joint venture with TruGreen. Seventy percent of the joint venture was owned by the private equity firm Clayton Dublier & Rice, its co-investors and TruGreen management, with the balance owned by ScottsMiracle-Gro.

In addition to the sale, ScottsMiracle-Gro also received cash proceeds of another $18.4 million in connection with the assignment to a third party of debt of the joint venture held by the company. The combined proceeds, approximately $120 to $140 million on an after-tax basis, will immediately be applied to reduce the Company’s indebtedness.

Upon the creation of the joint venture, ScottsMiracle-Gro received an approximate $200 million tax deferred dividend. In 2017, it received another tax-deferred dividend of approximately $90 million. Those two payments were essentially equal to the initial valuation placed on Scotts LawnService when the joint venture was established.

“Shareholder value was clearly maximized by the creation of this JV and now our divestiture of this investment,” said Randy Coleman, chief financial officer. “Using these proceeds to reduce our debt should allow us to lower our debt-to-EBITDA ratio below 4.0 by the end of fiscal 2019 and to 3.5 times debt-to-EBITDA by the end of 2020. At that level, management would once again begin to explore options to proactively return more cash to shareholders.”

ELM adds location, promotes Gross to associate branch manager

The promotion and expansion is part of Eastern Land Management’s multi-year strategic investment.

Eastern Land Management, a commercial landscape and winter snow/ice services firm that's been in business for more than 40 years, has opened a 6-acre, 20,000 sq.-ft. campus in Monroe, Connecticut.

In conjunction with the new facility, ELM promoted Greg Gross to associate branch manager of the ELM Monroe branch. He will report directly to company president Bruce Moore Jr.

“Promoting from within yields great results,” Moore Jr. said. “Cultivating talented and motivated employees internally and advancing them when the time is right has long been a part of ELM’s great place to work culture.”

The expansion is part of ELM’s multi-year strategic investment. The campus will serve as a hub for its winter operations and will house ELM’s new zero-emission, all-electric fleet.

In addition, the site will include safe and sustainable salt storage, an eco-friendly brine-making facility and a fleet of specialized vehicles and equipment.

This equipment is for anti-icing pre-treatment, snow removal and post-storm liquid applications during winter weather events.

“Last year, we committed to dramatically take our green game up a notch,” Moore Jr. said. “With a special focus on alternative fuels and less harmful approaches, we hope to make ELM a leader in sustainability and value creation.”

Moore Jr. is currently leading the Monroe roll-out, with Gross driving day-to-day operations.

Aspire receives private equity investment

The Aspire Software Company, a business management software company, has received an investment from Mainsail Partners, a San Francisco-based growth equity firm.

The company plans to use the capital to accelerate product development and expand its team.

“This is an exciting time for us. Our strategy of delivering game changing solutions for our customers remains as strong as ever,” said Mark Tipton, co-founder and co-CEO of Aspire.

“We believe this partnership with Mainsail will allow us to execute even better,” said Kevin Kehoe, co-founder and co-CEO of Aspire. “We have built a great team who are dedicated to helping our clients navigate and prosper in a rapidly changing business environment by providing them with the tools and practices essential to success.”

Aspire was founded in 2014 and offers a comprehensive system, which includes estimating, proposals, CRM, scheduling, purchasing, time reporting and payroll. It also features job costing, labor forecasting, invoicing and reporting.

This February, Aspire released Version 5.0 of the software featuring a payments platform and customer portal allowing contractors to accept online payments from customers, as well as Fleetsharp – a GPS tracking system enabling comprehensive fleet and shop management.

“The Aspire team of nearly 50 professionals have built a great system that is enabling landscapers to grow their businesses with automation,” said Jason Payne, managing partner at Mainsail Partners. “We believe that the industry is underinvested in technology and that systems like Aspire’s with a customer-centric approach are in an attractive position to help contractors grow profitably while navigating the competitive market dynamics.”

Aspire currently has more than 29,000 users in over 750 locations in the U.S. and Canada. Payne and Jason Frankel, vice president at Mainsail, will join Tipton and Kehoe on the company’s board of directors.

Greenworks releases new mower

Greenworks Commercial released its new 25-inch Brushless Self-Propelled Lawn Mower. Powered by the brand’s 82V recyclable lithium-ion battery, this product is designed for landscapers, turf management crews and lawn care professionals.

The brushless engine is powered on with the push of a button. Equipped with Smart Cut technology, the GMS 250 mower adjusts speed as necessary to improve performance and extend run time. The dual port battery sequential power supply automatically switches from one battery to another, delivering greater operating time without interruption.

Some of the increased efficiency and power-focused features of the tool include:

  • 7-position single lever height adjustment for a diverse range of cutting heights - 13/8 to 3
  • Three-quarter-inch 25-inch Steel Deck with 2-in-1 design for mulch and rear bag capability
  • Dual blades for increased cutting performance
  • Rear wheel driving system for easy operation
  • 2-year battery warranty
  • 2-year tool warranty

“Our GMS 250 82-volt lithium-ion Self Propelled Mower will help landscape pros overcome the growing issues of dealing with emission and noise regulations, saving their businesses both time and money,” said Tony Marchese, commercial business unit leader, Americas – Greenworks.

“In fact, with the powerful performance of this self-propelled 25-inch mower, we’ve given landscape crews the ability to get all their trimming, finishing and severe sloped-terrain work done in a quiet, hassle-free manner that won’t disturb clients in their homes or work places, enhancing the customer experience.”

The Greenworks Commercial GMS 250 25” 82-V Self Propelled Mower is available now through independent dealer networks.

Hino Trucks appoints new president

Hino Trucks announced Shigehiro Matsuoka was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of Hino North America effective Feb. 1, 2019. Matsuoka succeeds Yoshinori Noguchi who will step down after a tenure as president and CEO. Noguchi will remain as an executive advisor through March to ensure a smooth transition.

Under Noguchi’s leadership for the past six years, Hino grew its dealer base by nearly 20 percent, launched its Connected Vehicle Strategy and Certified Ultimate dealer program, built a corporate office in Novi, Michigan and purchased a new manufacturing facility in Mineral Wells, West Virginia.

“On behalf of the entire dealer network, we would like to thank Noguchi for his leadership and action over the past six years,” said Tim Matheny, president of Matheny Motors and chairman of Hino Trucks’ National Dealer Advisory Council.

Matsuoka joined Hino in 1981 and has held various overseas assignments in his 38-year career with Hino. Most recently, he was responsible for total support strategy and technical solutions, aftersales service, parts operations, and global production and parts logistics divisions for Hino Motors Limited.

“This is an important time of transformation for Hino as we expand into the Class 8 market, advance our connected vehicle strategy, elevate customer ownership experience and build on Hino’s presence in the U.S. market,” said Matsuoka. “I am honored to have this opportunity to lead the Hino Trucks team and further strengthen our commitment to continuous improvement and widen our range of product offerings.”

An initial focus for Matsuoka is the launch execution of the new Class 7 and 8 A09 powered Hino XL7 and XL8 series trucks – first introduced in Spring 2018 – nearly ready to enter mass production at Hino Trucks new facility in Mineral Wells, West Virginia.

“We are looking forward to Matsuoka’s strong leadership in continuing the growth of Hino Trucks which has been predicated on world-class customer experience,” Matheny said.

Keeling named NALP interim CEO

The board of directors of the National Association of Landscape Professionals placed Carol Keeling in the role of interim CEO.

Keeling succeeds Sabeena Hickman, who served as CEO of the association for more than a decade before announcing her resignation earlier this month to pursue other opportunities. Keeling will begin her new role effective immediately. She will also continue to serve as vice president of finance and administration, a role she has held since she joined NALP in 2007.

“We are extremely fortunate to have someone with as much leadership and industry experience as Carol at the helm during this transition period,” said Jeff Buhler, NALP president. “In her nearly 12 years with the association, Carol has skillfully and strategically overseen the financial, human resources and information technology areas of NALP. Our board has the utmost confidence in her abilities to keep NALP on track for the future and ensure a smooth transition of leadership while a thorough, national search for a permanent chief executive is conducted.”

Buhler said Keeling helped manage the post-financial merger of the Associated Landscape Contractors of America and the Professional Lawn Care Association of America to become the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET). She also helped later navigate the association’s rebranding and name change from PLANET to NALP, and she implemented two fiscal year changes.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve the professional landscape industry in this expanded capacity,” Keeling said. “I am looking forward to working with our talented staff and dedicated board to continue to carry out on the association’s mission of serving our members and ensuring the long-term growth and stability of NALP. The association has a strong future ahead.”

Prior to joining NALP, Keeling spent more than a decade as an accounting and tax consultant in northern Virginia. She has also held corporate accounting positions with Rockresorts in Boca Raton, Florida, and Mariott International in Bethesda, Maryland and previously worked as a certified public accountant for several firms in the Pittsburgh area.