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Steel Prices Spike

An unusually steep jump in steel prices over the past nine months is putting pressure on the manufacturing and construction industries. According to MSNBC news, the rising steel costs also are bumping up the cost of construction for roads and buildings by 10 to 20 percent compared to a year ago. As of August, the Midwest average price of hot-rolled sheets of steel increased from $270 per ton to $709 per ton, according to a survey from

Industry sources say prices are up because of high demand in China and because there’s less steel being made in the United States due to closures of steel mills in recent years.

The spike has hurt contractors who agreed to their fees for their services this year before the steel prices shot up. To adjust to the rising prices, some contractors have started adding surcharges to break out the cost of steel. Other contractors are buying all the steel they need for a project and then storing it on job sites as a way of getting control, said Scott Weicht, executive vice president of Adolfson & Peterson Inc., a Minneapolis construction firm.

For now, Weicht anticipates the price of steel and other building materials will increase because of continued demand from China and a spike in demand in the U.S. due to hurricane damage.


Weed Triggers Plants to Self-Destruct

Spotted knapweed, a highly invasive thistle, releases a natural herbicide that kills native plants.

Scientists have always thought that invasive plants take over other natives by being more efficient in their use of resources. But the spotted knapweed has a truly homicidal use of chemistry. Catechin, a chemical released by this plant, was documented by researchers at Colorado State University. A natural herbicide, it causes plants to self-destruct, allowing the spotted knapweed to take over. Jorge Vivanco, Colorado State Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture professor says, “It actually triggers a genetic response within other plants, causing them to create oxidants–free radicals–as well as triggering genes that cause the plant’s cells to die, and it’s dead in a short period of time.” The new research combines horticulture, biology, chemistry, weed science and genetics. The spotted knapweed is native to Europe. When soil levels of catechin in Colorado and Europe were compared, catechin levels were four to five times higher than in Europe. Potted plants native to Europe exposed to those same levels of catechin weren’t affected. “There is strong evidence that chemistry can play a role when weeds invade non-native soil,” said Vivanco. For more information go to:

Turfgrass Journal Debuts

“Applied Turfgrass Science,” a peer-reviewed, scientific journal for turfgrass professionals, has been launched by the St. Paul, Minn.-based Plant Management Network.

“We are very excited about this new journal as it provides a great outlet for applied turfgrass research and management of this information,” editor Michael Richardson said.

“Applied Turfgrass Science” is now accepting manuscripts for publication.

More information is available at

Hardscape Expo and Conference

Mark Feb. 22 to 24, 2005 on your calendar now to attend the 1st Hardscape Expo and Conference at the Pheasant Run Resort Mega Center in St. Charles, Ill.

The event will feature a trade show, how-to installation seminars as well as Vander Kooi & Associates business management seminars.

Check out the trade show to see hardscape equipment, tools and materials--all focused 100 percent on hardscaping.

For more information log on to or call 847-277-0244.

ValleyCrest Acquires Omni Landscape Group

ValleyCrest Companies of Calabasas, Calif., a privately held landscape organization with more than $700 million in revenue, announced Oct. 5 the acquisition of Omni Landscape Group. Omni’s parent company, Omni Facility Services, filed for Chapter 11 protection from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in June 2004.

Substantially all the assets of Omni Landscape Group are now part of ValleyCrest’s landscape maintenance division. The acquisition expands ValleyCrest’s operations in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey. ValleyCrest expects the transaction to add approximately $50 million in revenue and 700 people to its team of about 8,000 employees.

“We plan to take advantage of their reputation as a leader in turf management by learning from their success and business,” said Richard Sperber, president of ValleyCrest Companies.

Integration of Omni’s resources and personnel is the responsibility of Roger Zino, president of ValleyCrest Landscape Maintenance. “First and foremost, we’re going to take care of the people,” said Zino.

For more information on ValleyCrest Companies, visit

ALCA Executive Director Resigns

ALCA Executive Director Debra Holder dedicated 25 years to the organization.

Herndon, Va. – The Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) announced the resignation of CEO Debra Holder. Holder cited the need to spend more time with family and friends.

Under Holder’s leadership, ALCA membership more than tripled, as did the annual budget and staff. A sponsorship program and the ALCA Educational Foundation were launched, and the merger of the ALCA and PLCAA was realized.

ALCA President Kurt Kluznik described Debra as a “shining star” and her guidance of ALCA as “nothing short of overwhelming success.”

“My resignation was a hard decision for me to make, but the right one, and at the right time, for both ALCA and me,” Holder said.

Holder will remain on staff through 2004 as a consultant. Tanya Tolpegin, ALCA’s chief operating officer, will be the interim CEO.

Blower Bans Are Blowing in the Wind

Saturday morning can be beautiful–a person can wake up, turn over and snooze a bit more, not having the prospect of fighting traffic and getting to work on time. Many weekend sleepers, however, have trouble enjoying that small pleasure, what with the invariable, uncalled-for wakeup call of leaf blowers.

Many communities across the country have laws limiting leaf blower use. Some 44 California cities restrict their use. Berkeley, Calif., no stranger to activism, banned gas leaf blowers altogether in 1990, and the 90210 haut community (Beverly Hills) followed suit. Other cities have instituted partial bans, like Mamaroneck, N.Y, which forbids the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from June 1 to Sept. 30.

More and more communities are joining in. Just this October the Vancouver City Council voted to ban leaf blowers in the city’s West End; stateside, the Chapel Hill, N.C. town council proposed a similar ban.

Clearly people are fed up with noise, and some are concerned about the pollution of the small gas engines. The EPA estimates that the small gas engines, like the ones used by leaf blowers, are responsible for 10 percent of the nation–s hydrocarbon emissions.

But where there is a complete ban on the blowers, as in Berkeley, landscapers say they’ve had to hire more groundskeepers to make up for the loss of efficiency of the leaf blowers.

ProGreen Show is Jan. 12-14

The ProGreen EXPO green industry trade show happens Jan. 12 through 14 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. The show has already signed up close to 700 exhibitors from lighting, irrigation, nursery and other manufacturers.

The event offers visitors more than 130 educational seminars. ProGreen EXPO 2005 is sponsored by the Colorado Nursery Association, the American Society of Landscape Architects and other green industry groups. To reserve booth space or to register call (303) 756-1079 or visit

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June 18, 2019, 8:43 am PDT

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