The Bruce Co., Reliable form strategic alliance

February 4, 2013 -  By

MIDDLETON, WIS. — The Bruce Co., based here, and Reliable Property Services of Eagan, Minn., have formed a strategic alliance designed to help both companies expand as the economy begins to grow again. Terms were not disclosed. The Bruce Co.

Reliable, which is a portfolio company of Private Capital Management of St. Paul, Minn., will acquire The Bruce Co.’s lawn maintenance, snow and ice management operations in Milwaukee and Racine, and its golf course maintenance division. Reliable already has similar operations in Madison and Milwaukee.

The Bruce Co. will expand its wholesale nursery sales and landscape design and construction practice to Minnesota and Iowa, where Reliable has year-round clients. The Bruce Co. will retain its landscape design and construction business in Wisconsin, including the Milwaukee operations, as well as its seasonal landscape maintenance and snow and ice removal services in the greater Madison area. The Bruce Co.’s 600-acre nursery operation in Verona, Wis., will provide nursery stock to both companies. The company will retain its retail garden center in Middleton and its irrigation and aquatics services for commercial and residential customers.

Bliss Nicholson, CEO of The Bruce Co., said Reliable’s fit and similar values of exceptional customer care prompted the two companies to pursue this relationship. The partnership will allow The Bruce Co. and its employees to serve a larger share of the market in its core businesses with a higher level of service.

“Our partnership will allow The Bruce Co. to continue to provide exceptional services for current and prospective clients,” Nicholson said. “The Bruce Co. plans to do whatever it takes for our business to grow its overall market and to provide more jobs — now and over time.”

The partners will remain separate companies but will “swap” or share some operations. For example, The Bruce Co. will continue its residential, commercial and golf course construction efforts. Reliable will take over golf course maintenance operations.

Both Nicholson and James Hansen, chairman of Reliable, agreed they found the right partner.

Nicholson said he did not expect staff cutbacks at the Middleton or Verona locations. About 75 workers will be hired by Reliable, and very few staff changes are expected in Milwaukee and Racine, he said.

Reliable will retain the existing Bruce management team in Milwaukee and Racine. Dave Weber, a 35-year employee of The Bruce Co. and a shareholder, will serve as president of Reliable’s Wisconsin operations. He will continue to be based in Middleton. Reliable also will make substantial new investments in equipment and systems.

The Bruce Co. ranked No. 32 on the 2012 LM150, Landscape Management’s annual ranking of the largest firms in the Green Industry with $32 million in 2011 revenue. Reliable ranked No. 62 with $19.5 million in revenue.

About the Author:

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

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