Landscape and restoration services have been an integral part of Metrosweep Environmental Services for the past 28 years. Although the company's foundation has been built on the sweeping industry, a major portion of its business comes from various other activities such as storm drain cleaning, power washing, roadside restoration, and landscaping services. Metrosweep Environmental now services the entire state of Michigan as well as parts of Illinois, Indiana and Florida. With a fleet consisting of over 60 vehicles and 90-plus employees throughout its service area, Metrosweep is one of the largest privately owned businesses of its caliber in the country.
According to Russ Barker, company owner and president of Metrosweep Environmental, "The company's philosophy has always been to provide a clean environment to leave to our children, hence the corporate logo of 'Sweeping today for a cleaner and greener tomorrow.'" With that strategy in place, Metrosweep Environmental has tuned its services to represent what is in line with its philosophy, while at the same time being fiscally responsible to its employees. Metrosweep's customer base represents a wide variety of industry participants, ranging from private contractors such as builders, management companies and corporations to transportation service providers, state and municipal services, and government agencies. Metrosweep Environmental is fully Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) certified and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) licensed.
Over the past 10 years, Metrosweep has extended its state and municipal contracts in order to reflect the economic and growth trends in the Michigan environment. Landscape restoration contracts now represent a much greater percentage of services than they have in the past. The ability to provide numerous services along with the basic restoration packages has been an extremely valuable asset. The company not only provides the hydro-seeding, mulch and topsoil for a completed roadway project, but it can also provide the storm drain cleaning and roadway sweeping that is necessary upon completion of the project.
A large part of Metrosweep's business is brought about in effect by the decaying roadway infrastructure. According to Barker, MDOT contracts have been increasing steadily for the past several years, and Metrosweep has taken the lead in fine tuning its services to facilitate the need. Roadway reconstruction requires a multitude of services. "Boulder retaining wall construction, brick pavers, stamped concrete, and various types of stone application also represent services we provide. We have also seen a large number of projects which we have provided additional landscape work for such as planting trees, shrubs and even seasonal floral arrangements. Many of these jobs are contracted over a period of several months to several years. We have to be able to ensure coordination of all activities accordingly," Barker said.
Construction within existing municipalities such as subdivisions represents the greatest challenge. Property owners are very concerned with the onset of a municipal street reconstruction effort and sometimes, understandably, have trouble seeing the long-term improvement compared to the temporary chaos of which they are in the midst. "As a multi-service company, we are able to keep the chaos at a minimum with the daily services we provide. Cleanup is essential to our activities, especially in an established subdivision," Larry Coker, sales manager and head of the Restoration and Heavy Construction Division, said. "These people see us on a day-to-day basis, and the last thing we want to leave them with is that we don't care about their living environment. When we leave a location, it must and will look better than when we first got there." Metrosweep has also provided landscaping and restoration services to local agencies such as the Oakland County Drain Commission, the Road Commission of Macomb County, the Road Commission for Oakland County, and numerous other municipalities.
As part of any MDOT or municipal project, it is necessary to maintain the paperwork flow as required by the various prime contractors and engineering firms. Metrosweep has an administration and accounting department that handles all aspects of internal and external information and transactions including certified payroll, certification of materials, testing orders, and the many additional proper manifests.
These types of services also carry a greater need for specialized equipment and training. "MDOT jobs are a totally different animal. There are a multitude of variables involved with highway work. The insurance requirements are tremendous. We carry $5 million in coverage. The training for this type of work is regulated, and we have to adhere to special equipment and apparel requirements. We have a safety office in-house that provides the training for all of our employees. All of our employees are required to attend four annual training sessions to ensure proper operation of equipment on public highways. When we send our employees out on a job we want to make certain they can cope with not only the job itself, but the stress involved with working in somewhat hazardous conditions. We issue the proper uniforms, vests, hard hats, and equipment for the job, along with properly trained employees. In addition, our field supervisors are all trained and experienced in the operation of all equipment to be used at the site," Barker said.
As part of the ongoing need to expand its services, Metrosweep has been active in developing a relationship with one of the largest dirt processing companies in Michigan, AKO Contracting, in order to provide the processing, topsoil screening, transportation of materials, and excavation of the numerous job sites as work progresses. AKO also provides topsoil to landscape developers, nurseries, municipalities, and heavy construction contractors. According to Ron Omilian, chief consultant with CEO Contracting which works for AKO, "We've seen tremendous interest in the services we provide, not just in the heavy construction industry, but in the retail market as well. The services are available to a diverse population. Nurseries and landscape developers have expressed interest in both topsoil availability and utilizing those services in actual dirt processing. Last year alone we moved over 100,000 cubic yards of topsoil. This year we're predicting well over 200,000 cubic yards. We have dirt plants set up at different locations around the Wayne County, Macomb County and Oakland County areas, and just being where they're at seems to generate awareness."
Metrosweep's landscape services also extend to the retail market as well. According to Bill Brown, director of Operations for Metrosweep, "We provide complete landscape services to a large number of freestanding retail and financial facilities throughout Michigan. We provide grass cutting, shrub trimming, sprinkler installation and maintenance, fertilizing and weeding, along with parking lot sweeping and maintenance."
Rich Ernst, retail sales coordinator and marketing director, who has been with the company since 1994, states; "We've come full circle. In today's market, we can't afford to specialize in just one service. Metrosweep Environmental has always been a power sweeping company, with various additional services being provided on an as-needed basis. Today we specialize in additional services including power sweeping, storm drain cleaning services, landscaping and restoration services, power washing and scrubbing, snow removal, parking lot striping, and seal coating. We even do occasional interior maintenance."
Any service industry is only as good as the operators and the equipment it uses. "Failure of equipment on an MDOT or municipal job is unacceptable. That's why we have 24-hour, seven-day coverage of our vehicles. We have three shifts for our mechanics, and the ability to provide repair or vehicle replacement service within an hour of any incident," Randy Tippit, garage and vehicle maintenance supervisor, said. All Metrosweep vehicles have global positioning system (GPS) or similar tracking units installed for both safety and tracking verification. The ability to verify a vehicle's location and the amount of time it spends at a given location also helps the scheduling department route the operators and equipment to the numerous locations they must be at on a daily basis.
Metrosweep Environmental has taken an active approach when it comes to providing services to the commercial and property management industries. "What we see as a senior management trend is that businesses would rather have one contractor to deal with than numerous service providers. It's much easier for a store or property manager to write one check at the end of the month than five or more. A complete exterior or interior property management provider is becoming a general trend, especially in the face of the economic times we're currently seeing. We approach a store or property manager with the understanding that they have a specific exterior maintenance budget and custom tailor a service package accordingly. In today's economy, many services have become secondary or discretional. We will work with a business to facilitate those discretionary services along with their primary needs," Barker said.
Metrosweep Environmental Services represents a multiservice organization providing complete restoration and landscaping services, topsoil, mulch, sod, hydro-seeding, soil testing, engineering consultation, brick paving, grading, excavating, and dirt processing. In addition to these services, they excel in street and parking lot sweeping, parking lot repair and striping, storm drain cleaning, and retail facility exterior landscape maintenance. Metrosweep has taken the active approach to diversification. In the words of its owner: "In today's economy, it's diversify or die!"