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Attica Company Turns Yard Waste Into Asset

The County Press - Buisness

September 21, 2014

By: Phil Foley

Attica Twp., MI

Randy Owen’s career got its kick-start in a Mt. Pleasant gas station on Feb. 19, 1974.
That’s when a supervisor with N. G. Gilbert offered him a job doing utility line clearing. “It’s something you like or you don’t” he said. “It’s hard work, but it’s really rewarding work.”
The Mt. Pleasant native spent the next 15 years working for Gilbert before opening his own business and settling in Attica Township.
Today Owen Tree Service has 45 full-time employees and another 49 seasonal employees doing land clearing and tree maintenance work as far away as Grand Rapids. Owen said being based in Attica eats up about 10 percent of his company’s profits, but he added, “Lapeer County is a beautiful place to live.”
He said he tries to spend as much of his $1 million annual parts and supplies budget in the county and while he has employees across the state, the bulk of his $2 million annual payroll is paid out in the Lapeer County.
Still most Lapeer County residents may never have noticed the two modest signs in front of his office and mulch yard, both on Lake George Road, or noticed one of his trucks.
Most of Owen’s tree maintenance work is in the high-income suburbs of Detroit where homeowners will pay a premium to have their trees and shrubs manicured. “I’ve always thought if you do a good, quality job that you can be proud of, you can charge for it,” Owen said.
A decade ago Owen decided he wanted to do something useful with all the yard waste he was generating. He regularly participates in professional associations related to his industry.
That’s where he learned about making mulch. After a $1.5 million investment in equipment Owen, or rather his yardman Chris Ironside, began grinding trees, branches and yard waste into mulch.
By the time the mulch season ends this year, Ironside said they expect to ship 40,000 cubic yards of mulch, all to large wholesale buyers.
Owen said his company is only one of two in the state offering certified playground mulch. He said the difference between his mulch and non-certified is “subtle.” Compared to the product most homeowners buy in two-cubic-foot bags at home centers Owen’s product has smaller pieces and seems spongier.
It also comes in one color, like Henry Ford’s Model T, black. The mulch gets its color form a year’s worth of oxidation and decomposition.
Ironside said they also sell an “organic” mulch that has a higher amount of fine material in it that actually improves planting beds over time.
The one-time asphalt plant on Lake George Road that Owen uses to make mulch at is filled with piles of logs and tree branches, but no pallets. “We only use virgin wood,” he said, explaining that dried pallets tend to shatter into sharp slivers.
Ironside said he has different “recipes” for different kinds of mulch and the one for playground mulch includes no pine trees. “I don’t want any pine needles and I don’t like the way it breaks,” he said.
Owen delivers his mulch in three trucks, each capable of bringing an acre’s worth of tree debris into his yard and carrying 95.000 pounds of mulch out.
He said when he was a kid back in Mt. Pleasant pumping gas, “I never had any idea it would be like this.”
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Owen Tree Service provides tree, lawn, and landscape services to the following cities and towns:
Genesee County, Michigan:
● Burton
● Davison
● Flushing
● Goodrich
● Linden
● Otisville
● Clio
● Fenton
● Gaines
● Grand Blanc
● Montrose
● Otter Lake
● Flint
● Genesee
● Lennon
● Mt Morris
● Swartz Creek
Lapeer County, Michigan:
● Almont
● Brown City
● Columbiaville
● Imlay City
● Metamora
● Peck
● Attica
● Clifford
● Dryden
● Lapeer
● North Branch
● Sandusky
● Hadley
● Mayville
● Otter Lake
● Silverwood
Macomb County, Michigan:
● Armada
● Clinton Twp
● Grosse Pointe
● Macomb
● New Haven
● St Clair Shores
● Centerline
● Detroit
● Grosse Pointe Farms
● Ray
● Sterling Heights
● Chesterfield
● Eastpointe
● Grosse Pointe Shores
● Memphis
● Romeo
● Utica
● Clinton
● Fraser
● Grosse Pointe Woods
● Mt Clemens
● Roseville
● Warren
● Harrison Twp
● New Baltimore
● Shelby Twp
● Washington
Oakland County, Michigan:
● Auburn Hills
● Bloomfield Village
● Ferndale
● Leonard
● Orion
● South Lyon
● Berkley
● Clarkston
● Franklin
● Madison Heights
● Ortonville
● Southfield
● Beverly Hills
● Clawson
● Hazel Park
● Milford
● Oxford
● Troy
● Bingham Farms
● Commerce Twp
● Highland
● Novi
● Pleasant Ridge
● Walled Lake
● Birmingham
● Davisburg
● Holly
● Oak Park
● Pontiac
● Waterford
● Bloomfield
● Detroit
● Huntington Woods
● Oakland
● Rochester
● West Bloomfield
● Bloomfield Hills
● Farmington
● Lake Orion
● Oakland Twp
● Rochester Hills
● White Lake
● Farmington Hills
● Lathrup Village
● Orchard Lake
● Royal Oak
● Wixom
St. Clair County, Michigan:
● Algonac
● Casco
● East China
● Harbor Beach
● Lexington
● Peck
● Allenton
● Clay
● Emmett
● Harsens Island
● Marine City
● Port Huron
● Berlin
● Clyde
● Fair Haven
● Jeddo
● Marysville
● Richmond
● Brockway
● Columbus
● Fort Gratiot
● Kimball
● Memphis
● Sandusky
● Capac
● Cottrellville
● Goodells
● Lakeport
● North Street
● St Clair
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