Road trip roundup: Follow along with the LM staff’s June travels

July 2, 2019 -  By and

Temperatures in Grand Rapids, Mich., had finally topped 80 degrees when a whole lot of people rolled into town with snow and ice on the brain.

On June 27-28, The Snow and Ice Management Association (SIMA) welcomed manufacturers of snow and ice removal equipment, products and services, as well as landscape contractors, sports turf managers, airport crews and other companies offering snow removal services, to its annual trade show, held this year at the DeVos Center in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids.

Efficiency everywhere

Hustle and bustle on the snow floor at SIMA 2019. Photo: LM Staff

Hustle and bustle on the snow floor at SIMA 2019. Photo: LM Staff

This year’s show hosted 140 exhibitors and welcomed attendees from all over the U.S. and Canada. Exhibitors showed off products and innovations, and attendees were there to get the scoop. And, from all over the show floor, one word (or some variant thereof) could be heard: efficiency.

It’s tough enough to find employees to work during the summer months, and that only becomes more difficult in the winter. Don’t believe me? Check out Phil Harwood’s recent column on recruiting employees to work in the snow and ice removal biz.

So when the hiring gets tough, the tough find efficiency hacks.

One such hack is the Snowrator, the newest piece of equipment from Boss Plow, which is designed to make plowing sidewalks speedier and more efficient. It allows the operator to brine, spread and plow all at the same time, saving time and labor.

Knowing what the weather is going to do is vital in ensuring your teams are ready to hit the roads when the snow flies; don’t waste time waiting for flakes. Several private weather prediction companies presented on the show floor at SIMA including Neoweather Weather Consulting, TrueWeather and Thermodynamic Solutions. Companies like these ensure that contractors know when weather events are going to hit so crews can prepare and be ready to go ahead of time.

It felt like there was a new product or service around every corner at SIMA, and we can’t wait to share more of them in the upcoming Snow+Ice Guide, which will be published in the August issue of Landscape Management. 

Contractor connections

We also caught up with several contractors who attended SIMA at Grow the Bench’s VIP User Party, which was held on the evening of Thursday, June 27. The event drew contractors from all over the country, from Nashville to New York City.

When asked how much snow they get in Nashville, Robert May, director of operations at Landscape Services, Inc. (LSI) said, “About 7 inches, but we get a lot of ice.” Two of LSI’s big snow removal clients include Vanderbilt and Belmont Universities. In more northern states, colleges and universities usually opt to have their own snow removal crews, May says, but in transitional states that don’t get as much snow, it makes sense to hire a contractor to do the work.

Seven inches probably seems like nothing to Andrea Saenz, operations director at Novus Maintenance, based in New York City. Commercial snow removal in The Big Apple is definitely no cakewalk. “Nobody wants to go in there and do it, but we do,” Saenz laughs. Saenz started Novus Maintenance, which provides commercial snow removal service in all five boroughs of New York and has a clientele that includes Charles Schwab, Barneys New York and Ameritrade.

The latest news from from OPEI’s annual meeting

LM’s travels also took the magazine to the beautiful Stein Eriksen Lodge in Park City, Utah, for the 67th annual Outdoor Power Equipment Institute meeting. Attendees traveled in from far and wide to attend the meeting and discuss and learn about the various challenges facing the outdoor power equipment industry — like tariffs and emissions challenges.

Dr. Alan Beaulieu speaks at the 2019 OPEI annual meeting in Park City, Utah. (Photo: Seth Jones)

Dr. Alan Beaulieu speaks at the 2019 OPEI annual meeting in Park City, Utah. (Photo: Seth Jones)

Speakers included internationally known economist Dr. Alan Beaulieu; Dr. Lior Zoref, who spoke on the power of crowdsourcing to solve problems; and big data expert Paul Zikopoulos, among others.

OPEI shared plenty of good news with members. Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI, reported that the annual GIE+EXPO show saw an 8 percent increase in revenue in 2018, and is on track to continue its positive growth this year while setting another attendance record. Dan Mustico, vice president, government and market affairs for OPEI, reported that the market forecast for the outdoor power equipment market was up in 2019 over the same time in 2018. “It’s largely because of the economy we’ve been in, and weather conditions have been better than in 2018,” he said, while adding that workforce concerns and trade uncertainty have put a strain on the market. Mustico reported that the consumer mower market is up 4.6 percent, the commercial mower market is up 7.3 percent and consumer/commercial handheld market is up 2.5 percent.

Beaulieu spoke for over an hour to the group on a wide ranging talk that touched on everything from labor challenges to possible wars the Pentagon has in its sights. While some of his news was dark (he warned the few Millennials in the room of a great depression in the 2030s, as well as the potential for a war in the early 2020s) he also was hopeful for the early 2020s, predicting an uptick in the economy as soon as late 2020. He also spoke on the calamity that is today’s political segment. “Remember, a repeal on tariffs is only one Tweet away,” he said.

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