For all the talk of corporate downsizing in these uneasy economic times, two Kent companies saw the softening market as a chance to grown their business. I had a chance to catch up with Karl Warnke, CEO for Davey Tree a couple of weeks ago, and in the course of our conversation he made a casual remark about how busy he’s been wrapping up some $150 million in new acquisitions. $100 million here, $50 million there, these are significant numbers that make a clear statement of the financial health of Davey. And then on a smaller (but no less important) scale, I happened to bump into an article in Crain’s Business Magazine announcing that in 6 months AWP Inc. had already outgrown the new 14,000 sq. ft. headquarters building on Overholt Road in Kent so they went out and bought another 18,000 sq. ft. Unfortunately all this positive business news doesn’t always make its way into the headlines so I’m doing my part to tell the rest of the story.
Let’s face it, Kent owes a lot to the Davey Tree company, including the title of the Original Tree City thanks to Johnny Appleseed Davey planting trees all over town 100 years ago that dominate our skyline today. Fast forward 70 years later and Davey Tree was an economic engine in our downtown and more recently they built a fantastic Corporate Headquarters that stands as a point of pride welcoming people into our Kent community and creating a great first impression at our northern gateway.
Who we are and what we stand for as a community has deep roots (forgive the pun) in the Davey tree business. Kent, thanks to Davey Tree was green before green was in. Davey was here in Kent’s formative years and they left a strong naturalist imprint on our community that is still seen in everything we do.
At a time when many of our former manufacturing giants in Kent have moved overseas Davey Tree has stuck with us and they continue to call Kent home so when I hear that they’ve been able to make $150 million in growth investments I get pretty excited about what the next Kent-Davey era has in store.
As we enter Davey’s 128th year in Kent, Davey is focusing on innovation, aggressive research and cuting edge technology to lead their corporate success as the experts in the green industry. That also happens to be the same elements of the City’s economic development priorities so in this case as goes Davey so goes Kent.
That’s also the message from Kent State University — more research, more innovation and more technology development. When you’ve got that kind of strategy alignment with the kind of economic horsepower that Davey and Kent State bring to the table exciting things are going to happen and we’re doing our best to be in a position to get those things to happen sooner and faster.
With 13 new acquisitions in 2 years, Davey is well on their way towards meeting their growth goals and they’re also already getting accolades for their innovation winning an EDGE award this year (see below).
Economic Development Through Growth and Entrepreneurship
The Entrepreneurs EDGE is planning a year-long celebration for those honored at the Leading EDGE Awards allowing these business executives to learn from the best practices of others, make connections that will enhance their business, and address specific concerns that will enable them to enhance their growth
EDGE Value Program
The EDGE has created a unique metric that will enable the region to measure and track companies throughout the 17 counties of Northeast Ohio that are creating the most value for themselves as well as for the community. Value creating companies deserve to be identified, honored, nurtured and supported.
“Value” = EBIT + total cash equivalent compensation for all of that company’s employees working in the Northeast Ohio region.EDGE looks at the absolute figure as well as the growth rate of this figure over the past three years.
Recognized companies should find this prestigious award from unbiased grantors with strong civic backing using objective data to be very appealing. The award should make the recognized companies very appealing to prospective employees, customers, suppliers, and be looked upon very favorably by city, county and state governments.
Qualifying companies will have sales revenue up to $500 million and currently sell some of their goods or services outside the region, or have plans to do so.
Crains Brian Tucker has to say in support of EDGE Companies
Flying a little lower on the Kent radar is AWP Incorporated located on Overhold Road. But don’t let their altitude fool you, with some 500 employees in the US, 425 fleet vehicles on the road and 13 regional offices they proudly call Kent home. The fact that in less than 6 months they need to double their space in Kent is a real testiment to their market position and belief that Kent is the best place for that growth to continue.
Here’s a summary of what they’re up to in Kent:
On August 1, 2008, AWP President, Bill Fink, announced that his real estate partnership, D F Realty Associates, had purchased the property immediately next door to AWP’s new corporate headquarters in Kent, OH for the purpose of accommodating AWP’s growth and expansion.
“We built a brand new 14,000 square foot building that we moved into in December 2007, and already we are out of room,” Fink said. The newly purchased facility, the former home of Consolidated Mold & Manufacturing, Inc. contains 18,000 square feet of office and warehouse space, and was once owned by Bill Fink’s father.
A total of eight AWP employees will be moving into the newly acquired space on or about October 1, 2008.
Davey Tree + AWP = Proof Positive that Business Growth is Happening in Kent