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Top Company winner: Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care



Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care

Tom Tolkacz, CEO of Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care, says things are improving in the landscaping business. "People are generally more confident," he says of the 20,000 or so customers the company has in the Denver and Fort Collins areas. "We have seen an uptick in business through the 2012 season."

Last year, customers saved money by ordering lawn fertilization but not tree trimming, for example. Not so this year, as the economy improved and people were eager to get their trees sprayed and new plants installed. In fact, the Christmas season has started, at least for decorations. Swingle’s field workers started installing lights on customers’ homes and businesses in September. "The holiday decorating business took a big hit during the recession," says Tolkacz, who joined Swingle in 1987 and has since purchased the company. "Now we have residential customers who say, ‘Everybody in the neighborhood likes my lights so I can’t cancel this year.’"

Swingle installs lights on homes and also on commercial sites including the Denver Botanic Gardens. It’s a way to keep the company’s 200 employees working year round. The installation takes a long time because the workers test the lights and make sure everything will work when the owner switches on the display, usually around Thanksgiving.

Tolkacz says the real challenge now is recruiting qualified workers. Over the past few years Swingle has hired people who transitioned from other industries, but it’s never easy to switch from indoor work to outdoor. "We do a lot of training. It’s not easy work especially if we get a hard winter," he says. In the summer, it’s difficult to find skilled arborists, or people who prune trees, and plant health-care technicians, who spray trees for pest control.

John Swingle founded the company in 1947. Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care has grown through purchases of other companies and through expansion. Over the years the company has introduced environmentally friendly lawn services, such as injecting soil and trunks with pest control products instead of spraying, and offering organic soil enhancers.

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Nora Caley

Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in business and food topics.

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