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Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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Published: Friday, 3/29/2013

Local snow-removal firms trim staff, make moves to control costs during mild winters

BY KRIS TURNER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The weather outside wasn’t too frightful this winter, so revenues were less than delightful for the snow-removal businesses.

Steve Fuzinski, chief executive officer of GreenSweep Snow and Ice Management, said business decreased 42 percent from what he called normal because of the mild winter. GreenSweep, which operates throughout Ohio, New Jersey, Chicago, and Detroit, has cut staff and trimmed operating costs to compensate for the loss.

“All we do is snow. I don’t mow grass. I don’t mulch,” Mr. Fuzinski said. “We have four months to make 12 months of income. To offset that, you have to control costs and you have to lay some people off, unfortunately, which I have not had to do but in the last two years.”

Toledo-based GreenSweep has been in business for 30 years. Mr. Fuzinski said the the weather and business climate have had their ups and downs during that time, but the current downturn has been especially brutal.

A light snowfall means fewer runs, and most contracts are paid on a per-run basis, he said. The erratic weather has prompted clients to be more conservative about inking seasonal contracts, he added.

According to the National Weather Service station in Cleveland, 22.1 inches of snow fell in the Toledo area from November, 2012, to this month. Thirty-six inches is the norm. Although 20.8 inches fell during the same time period a year ago, that accumulation was more evenly spread over the five-month span.

Almost half of this winter’s snow fell in February, so snow-removal businesses only had a short window in which to make money.

Sporadic snowfalls mean a profit is not guaranteed during the winter, said Paul Wise, owner of Wise Lawn Care. Mr. Wise maximizes his summer business to ensure the slow winter months don’t affect his company’s overhead.

“You kind of have to plan for something like this,” he said. “It definitely has been slow this year. You get enough snow to make the ground white, but not to go out and do your service.”

Mr. Wise also doubles as a sound engineer to help keep the cash piling up when the snow isn’t.

Employees also are flexible at Manchester Roofing Inc., which removes snow and repairs roofs. When snow isn’t falling, its workers fix roofs, said Lindsay Kozak, snow-removal services coordinator.

“The prethaw is never a bad thing for the roofing industry,” she said. “With the temperature going up and down, it kept things fairly busy with the roof repairs.”

Contact Kris Turner at: kturner@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.



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