Photo courtesy of Honda Power Equipment

SWEPSONVILLE, N.C. – At Honda Power Equipment’s manufacturing plant, over 750 associates, community members and local government representatives gathered to the celebrate 35 years of power equipment and yet another milestone.

HPE announced it would be retiring a trusted mower, the HRR series, with a newly designed series, the HRN. The HRR series was first introduced to Honda customers in 1998. The company currently sells as many HRR models annually as they do Honda Civics.

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right?” said Elisha Lipscomb, marketing manager for Honda Lawn and Garden. “But at Honda, we have a challenging spirit.” Lipscomb said they wanted to produce new mowers so that the company could better position itself for the future. The push to solve problems resulted in the new mower as well as a new engine to run it.

What’s new.

Honda’s HRN series design was focused on serviceability, ease of use, durability and power. Vinny Prinzo, principal engineer on the project, said modifications like a higher fuel neck and bigger fuel fillers were implemented along with a toolless air filter.

A 3-in-1 clip director was added to the mower for ease of use when switching from the bagging or mulching option. The team also analyzed areas of the HRR mower that allowed clippings to escape from the deck and designed the new model to alleviate those issues.

“The HRN mower has been developed from the ground up to deliver our residential customers with the best possible mowing experience in the segment,” Lipscomb said. “It’s not uncommon to find landscaping companies with a variety of Honda products in their fleets, and it wouldn’t surprise me if you spot the all-new HRN there, too, in the coming mowing seasons.”

The mower also features adjustable handle heights for operator comfort. When shipment begins, users will find the mower fully assembled. Oil is included in the box leaving the operator to fill it with gas before the first mow.

More growth.

With full production on HRN mowers slated to begin in September, Honda Power Equipment also gave anniversary celebration attendees a look into the expanded portion of its Swepsonville plant. A new production line is being built for the new engine along with 135,000 square feet of space dedicated two parts storage, which was previously offsite.

The expanded manufacturing space will allow for the production of two million engines per year and 300,000 mower units per year. Approximately 1100 associates work out of the Swepsonville plant.

HPE also donated to the local school board and supplied several fire and safety departments with new generators at the ceremony. “Partnerships are essential, the community is the key to our success,” said Takayoshi Fukai, HPE president.

Sperber partners with Conserve LandCare in Coachella Valley

Conserve LandCare owners will continue with the business in their existing roles and will retain some ownership.

CALABASAS, Calif. – Sperber Landscape Companies has announced a recent partnership with Conserve LandCare, headquartered in California’s Coachella Valley.

The addition of Conserve comes just months after the newly launched SLC brand announced their first acquisition of Kujawa Enterprises in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

With over 350 employees and an existing client list that includes the region’s prominent commercial, resort, and retirement properties, Conserve offers maintenance, construction, enhancements, irrigation,water conservation and tree care services in Coachella Valley.

SLC’s Managing Partner Richard Sperber said the addition of Conserve LandCare comes with great excitement and potential for expansion. It's referred to as a partnership because the owners will continue on with the business in their existing roles and will be retaining a portion of ownership of the company. The partnership agreement was managed by Jeffrey Harkness of Three Point Group.

“We are proud to join forces with such a respected company in one of California’s most attractive regional markets," Sperber said. He also said that one of the key factors in securing this partnership was the leadership of the company by husband and wife founders, George and Teri Gonzalez, as well as Conserve’s Vice President and Lawn & Landscape columnist Bruce Wilson.

“Bruce was one of the original leaders of the Maintenance Division for my family’s former company (ValleyCrest), and his leadership and horticultural expertise reinforces my confidence in the success of this partnership," Sperber said. "We look forward to collaborating with George, Teri, Bruce, and the rest of the stellar Conserve team as we continue to expand upon the company’s impressive growth and market-leading reputation.”

LandCare sold to management team

Former Brickman CEO, Scott Brickman, will join the company as chairman of the board.

LandCare has been sold to its management team and a small group of investors led by Scott Brickman, who will serve as chairman of the board.

“Our company is owned by landscape professionals that share a deep love for this industry. From our executive team to our branch managers, we will control our destiny and share in the value we create in the future,” said Mike Bogan, CEO of LandCare. “This is a milestone we have worked hard to achieve. We had tremendous partners in Aurora Resurgence, and we are thrilled to move forward with an ownership structure that ensures we keep our long-term vision to build and hold a company with a special culture centered around the employee experience and service to our customers.”

Scott Brickman, CEO of The Brickman Group from 1997 to 2012, said, “I am thrilled to be involved again in the industry I grew up in and love, and to back LandCare and so many of my old friends and associates. What excites me most is to be able to support and help guide an organization committed to a culture that puts its team members and customers first.”

LandCare posted $175 million in 2018 revenue and ranked 10 on Lawn & Landscape’s 2019 Top 100 list. The company has 52 branches in 20 states.

LandCare rebranded in 2015 under new leadership and has rebuilt the company from the ground up, according to Bogan. “It’s been a process, and we are still improving every day. I am proud of the team members from our service crews to our support staff and the work they have done to build a successful company. And I am so grateful to our former partners and the path they created for us to take ownership control of this business, ensuring LandCare has the opportunity to realize its full potential with a company that will always be driven by our core values.”

Created in 1999 through the merger of TruGreen and LandCare USA, TruGreen LandCare was the first national rollup, comprised of over 75 local and regional landscape companies. Under ServiceMaster, from 2000 to 2010, the company divested of several product lines to focus on commercial maintenance before its sale to private equity firm Aurora Resurgence in 2011. In late 2014, Aurora Resurgence hired industry veteran and former Brickman Executive Vice President Mike Bogan and rebranded as LandCare.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, though board member Andrew Fohrer, on behalf of Aurora Resurgence confirmed the investment was very successful for their firm. “LandCare was challenged initially, but the team assembled in 2015 drove tremendous operational and financial improvement and an outstanding result for our investors. We are happy for Mike, Scott and the management team to have the opportunity to assume ownership and lead the business through its next chapters.”

Toro, Steel Green settle lawsuit

Both parties issued a joint statement detailing that the settlement prohibits Steel Green from selling during certain months.

The Toro Company and Steel Green Manufacturing have settled their litigation, first announced in January, and agreed to issue the following joint statement:

“In March 2018, The Toro Company announced its acquisition of substantially all of the assets of L.T. Rich Products, Inc., a Lebanon, Indiana-based manufacturer of stand-on, zero-turn sprayers and spreaders marketed under the trade name “Z-Spray.” Matt Smith, Mike Floyd, Scot Jones, Brent Mills, Craig Conyer, and James Kepner were employees of L.T. Rich who continued to work at the L.T. Rich facility following The Toro Company’s acquisition.

“In early July 2018, the employees listed above left their employment at the L.T. Rich facility to form Steel Green Manufacturing LLC, which manufactures stand-on, zero-turn sprayers and spreaders that compete with The Toro Company’s line of Z-Spray products. Prior to quitting, certain of the employees listed above removed a significant volume of information from The Toro Company’s computer systems, much of which Toro considered sensitive, confidential, and trade secret.

“On October 1, 2018, The Toro Company filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana against Steel Green and its employees which alleged, among other things, that they had misappropriated trade secret information that belonged to The Toro Company, giving Steel Green an unfair advantage in bringing its products to market. Steel Green and its employees denied The Toro Company’s allegations, and specifically denied ever using The Toro Company’s information. Steel Green and its employees also assert that, before the lawsuit was filed, they returned to The Toro Company the storage devices that contained the information that the employees removed.

“The parties have reached an agreement to settle their differences. The settlement includes the Court’s entry of an agreed injunction, in which Steel Green and its employees will refrain from certain activities, including the use of the information that certain of the employees listed above removed from The Toro Company’s computer systems. The injunction also prohibits the sale of machines and parts by Steel Green during certain months in 2020. The other terms of the settlement are confidential.

“‘With the lawsuit behind us, we are ramping up production,’ said Brent Mills, general manager for Steel Green Manufacturing. ‘Our focus is on taking care of our customers and providing inventory to our dealers.’

“The injunction prohibits Steel Green Manufacturing from selling Z-Spray parts during February and March and Steel Green machines during March and April of 2020. During this time, Steel Green Manufacturing will continue to manufacture new machines, provide customer support, and sell parts for Steel Green machines to existing customers.

“Steel Green dealers and distributors are not affected by the injunction except for Steel Green’s manager for one month in April of 2020. All other dealers will be permitted to sell Steel Green machines during that time.

“Steel Green Manufacturing is attending several upcoming industry events, including the GIE+EXPO.

“‘We are incredibly grateful for the support and encouragement we have received from the lawn care community,” said Mills. “We are committed to building the best equipment and providing the best customer service in the industry, and we are planning to be around for a long, long time.’”

Judge reduces award in RoundUp cancer case

The award amount has been lowered from $2.055 billion to $87 million.

According to an article published by the Associated Press, a judge has cut a jury award in a lawsuit that found that Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide caused cancer in a California couple from $2.055 billion to $87 million, the third time a judge has reduced an award in a lawsuit over the disputed chemical.

The judge said that evidence supports the jury’s conclusion that Roundup was “a substantial factor” in causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Alva and Alberta Pilliod, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith said evidence also supported the finding that Monsanto knew the herbicide’s active ingredient, glyphosate, could be dangerous and failed to warn the couple from Livermore, California.

But Smith said the punitive damages were much higher than constitutional limits set by the U.S. Supreme Court, which has said should generally be no more than four times the amount of damages awarded as compensation to victims.

Vermeer commemorates anniversary of tornado recovery efforts

An EF3 tornado destroyed several buildings in Iowa last July, but three new facilities are being built in their place.

PELLA, Iowa – Vermeer broke ground this summer on a monument commemorating the buildings destroyed by an EF3 tornado in Pella, Iowa, last July along the Vermeer Mile.

“The tornado was the greatest challenge Vermeer has ever faced. I am incredibly proud to say our team has turned it into an opportunity. Not only are we rebuilding what we had, but we're becoming stronger than ever before,” President and CEO Jason Andringa said.

With three new facilities underway at the Pella-based headquarters, Vermeer is investing heavily in the future. The first facility scheduled to open this summer is a new engineering and R&D building named Shop 48. The name stems from Founder Gary Vermeer’s shop that led to the founding of Vermeer Corporation in 1948. With more than 100,000 square feet of space dedicated to building and testing new equipment, team members will begin to move into this area in August.

“We're very fortunate at Vermeer to have a 71-year history of innovation. Shop 48 will take our innovation and growth opportunities long into the future,” said Doug Hundt, the president of industrial solutions.

Plant 7 was also announced as the new facility being built where Plants 5 & 6 once stood. Nearly 500,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space will expand beyond the original manufacturing footprint that took up just less than 400,000 square feet of this area. The new facility will connect to the original Plant 7 that was damaged in the tornado but repaired in the months following. Together, they will take on the name Plant 7.

The job is scheduled to be complete next fall.

“Looking ahead, this facility is going to be world-class in every feature. We're advancing our paint technology, coat technology and the space for our team,” said Bill Blackorby, vice president of operations.

Also recognized was the new Eco Center. Replacing the one lost in the tornado, the new building will be placed behind Plant 1 and open its doors in January 2020. The Eco-Center helps responsibly process and manage waste along the Mile.

“Our customers depend on our ability to get high quality equipment to them. This new facility makes us excited to continue to deliver on this promise into the future,” said Mark Core, the executive vice president, forage and lifecycle and chief marketing officer.

Brian Williams partners with Bruce Wilson & Co.

Williams once worked in Silicon Valley as director of global business strategy and technical sales.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Bruce Wilson & Co., a landscape industry advisory services firm, announced a strategic partnership with Brian A. Williams, a sales trainers and motivational speaker. Williams will deliver and support sales training for Wilson & Co. clients nationwide.

The partnership combines Williams’ expertise in sales leadership with the need to optimize results in today’s hyper-competitive and performance-oriented marketplace. Together, Williams and the Wilson team aim to help landscape companies maximize revenue, drive brand affinity and better enable and prepare account management and business development teams.

Williams joins Wilson & Co. with substantial experience in the tech nology sector, having worked in Silicon Valley as director of global business strategy and technical sales for several tech companies.