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Fall 2011

Transforming the Commercial Landscape … One Masterpiece at a Time

Matt Maurer, Piedmont Landscape

Matt Maurer, Piedmont Landscape

From moving pallets of sod to digging trenches for irrigation systems, Piedmont Landscape relies on an arsenal of Bobcat equipment and attachments for assistance in their quest to revamp mundane surroundings into magnificent landscapes.

From the time he started pushing a lawnmower at around the age of 10, Matt Maurer knew he wanted a career that would allow him to work outside. A native of western Pennsylvania, Maurer was enticed south in 1995 to pursue a degree in business after receiving a swimming scholarship from Clemson University. After graduation in 1999, Maurer took a position in the suit-and-tie world for three frustrating years, before following his heart and taking the leap of faith into landscaping. With more than 10 years of landscaping experience under his belt, he currently serves as district manager for the coastal division of Piedmont Landscape in North Charleston, S.C.

“Being outside, planting things, mowing … it’s been a part of what I’ve always wanted to do long-term,” Maurer says. “One of the first things I did after arriving at Clemson was work my way onto the university grounds crew as a summer job. After graduation I felt obligated to pursue something related to my business degree, but every spring I would sit in my office, looking out the windows, dreaming about how much I really wanted to be outside.”

Piedmont Landscape's T190

Piedmont Landscape's T190

Maurer moved to Charleston in 2004 and has been in his current position for three years. Piedmont Landscape is based in Chamblee, Ga. (an Atlanta suburb), and has locations in nearby Smyrna, as well as Savannah, in addition to the North Charleston office. Maurer manages the day-to-day operations of the coastal division, an area that encompasses both the Savannah and North Charleston branches. He is responsible for supervising the work of more than 65 staffers, as well as a number of additional responsibilities including bid preparation, resource allocation, business development and equipment. Both Maurer and Piedmont have long been big Bobcat® equipment enthusiasts.

“We operate a gamut of Bobcat models here, including T190 and T300 compact track loaders, MT55 mini track loaders and several compact excavator models,” Maurer says. “Our relationship with Bobcat of Charleston is something we value a great deal. Their mechanic is just a phone call away and they have actually come out and rescued us when we have had a breakdown. Having said that, however, I can also tell you that one of the things we like most about running Bobcat equipment is durability. We have a compact track loader with more than 5,000 hard hours on it and still going strong. It’s also a machine that has probably seen upwards of 20 different operators. And as any contractor will likely admit, multiple operators using one piece of equipment can eventually take a toll.”

We’re tracking with ya

Piedmont Landscape puts its fleet of Bobcat equipment to the test in a variety of specialized functions every day, including grading, sod installation, landscape planting and irrigation systems. According to Maurer, the T190 excels in the often difficult tasks encountered frequently in landscaping applications: lifting, carrying materials and tough digging.

Piedmont Landscape's MT55

Piedmont Landscape's MT55

One crucial element of what the company does to prepare landscape sites is drainage work, a scenario ideally suited for both the T190 and MT55. Low ground pressure and outstanding flotation enable the T190 to tackle a variety of quickly changing soil types, including the soft, sandy and muddy conditions encountered by Maurer’s crews in the coastal regions of the South.

“Our Bobcat loaders are invaluable in completing the prep work that is often required to accurately grade a site for proper draining,” Maurer says. “This requires a machine that is both proficient in grading accuracy and capable of effectively navigating and adapting to a variety of soil conditions with ease. The rubber track undercarriage distributes the machine weight evenly to provide better traction in the marshy, less-than-firm conditions we face down here.”

Maneuverable labor savers

Piedmont is strictly a commercial landscape contractor focused primarily on new construction sites for real estate and multi-family (i.e., townhome and apartment complex) developments. This type of work involves what Maurer refers to as tight general contracting, meaning maneuverability is a big requirement of the equipment he runs. The machine also needs to have the capabilities to perform several functions, eliminating the need for multiple pieces of equipment on one site.

“If we are landscaping an apartment complex or similar development, our crews need a machine that can fit in confined spaces and do all the jobs,” Maurer says. “The T190 is the perfect solution. It can grade in tight areas and lift pallets of sod and tree plantings. We like to call it the small machine with big power.”

Labor is also a challenge for Piedmont and Maurer; an increasing frustration for most landscape contractors that has motivated Maurer to add a number of new attachments to his equipment fleet. He recently purchased a soil conditioner, an attachment he attributes to increasing productivity.

“With the soil conditioner, I can have one guy get 99 percent of an acre field ready for sod in half a day, as opposed to a crew of six guys out there to prep it for an entire day,” Maurer says. “This frees the guys up to do other things. We own the soil conditioner, augers, grapples, buckets, forks and trencher attachments and have found all to be a more efficient way to get jobs done that previously required manual labor. It doesn’t take long for an attachment investment to pay off.”

Personal gratification

Despite the challenging aspects that can often present frustrations for landscape contractors, Maurer doesn’t hesitate to affirm that his decision to leap from the corporate world to a career that he affectionately refers to as “outdoor artist” was the right move.

“I love being able to work outside,” Maurer says emphatically. “I love the early morning, getting up and yes, even facing all the challenges. Granted, our Bobcat equipment has made it easier to resolve some of them, but there is always something new. There is really nothing I find more gratifying than taking a blank canvas landscape and transforming it into a beautiful picture … especially ironic given that I have very little artistic talent whatsoever.”

Supporting PLANET

The Professional Landcare Network (PLANET) is an association that exists to serve the interests of lawn care professionals and related service providers around the globe. The organization develops active programs for more than 3,600 member firms in the areas of business management, government affairs, technical assistance, safety, education and inter-industry relations with other facets of the green industry. Members have direct access to many tools and networking opportunities that can be beneficial to their individual businesses.

Each year the association encourages members from across the United States and Canada to sponsor a PLANET Day of Service where local firms organize community projects that help raise awareness about the green industry and demonstrate that landscapers care about their communities and are good stewards of the environment. In 2010, more than 3,200 volunteers conducted approximately 200 service projects in 43 states and in Canada.

Among the most popular of the many PLANET-sponsored events is the Renewal & Remembrance beautification project that kicks off the organization’s annual legislative day on Capitol Hill. Hundreds of landscape and lawn care professionals from across the country gather in Arlington National Cemetery to spend the day mulching, cabling and installing lightning protection for trees, pruning, planting, and liming and aerating more than 200 acres. Among those taking part were Maurer and four from his staff at Piedmont.

“We were on the aeration team and it was great fun,” Maurer recalls. “Piedmont and our parent company, Yellowstone Landscape Group, are big supporters of PLANET Land Care. I think it’s really important to be involved. This industry has provided us a lot and we need to return the favor and do our part to give back.”

Bobcat is proud to support the activities of PLANET and encourages our member dealers and customers to get involved with the many worthwhile initiatives offered to PLANET members. For more information, visit www.landcarenetwork.org.