If you are a newcomer to Asplundh, this time line will give you a brief summary of the major events that shaped the company's history. For those of you who have been a part of Asplundh for several years, we hope this time line will refresh your memory, stir up that "orange blood," and instill some pride in our company's record of growth and innovation.
If you want a much more detailed picture of the company's early days, please read the 50th Anniversary Issue of The Asplundh TREE. It's a fascinating read and provides interesting historical background on the line clearance industry in America.
Carl Hjalmar Asplundh left his native Sweden in 1882 and came to work as an accountant in Philadelphia. Here he met Emma Steiger, who had recently emigrated from Switzerland, and after getting married, they settled in nearby Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania to raise a family. In 1903, Carl died suddenly, leaving Emma with a family of eight children to raise. The youngest son was also named Carl Hjalmar and 25 years later, he would join with his brothers Griffith and Lester to form the Asplundh Tree Expert Co.
But the family's connection to trees began long before that. In fact, the name Asplundh refers to "grove of aspen trees" in Swedish. To help support his widowed mother and siblings, the second oldest son, Oswald, took up work as a gardener and later founded a landscaping and tree surgery business. It was here that the three younger brothers earned money for their college educations by pruning trees under the guidance of Oswald.
The Asplundh Tree Expert Co. is founded when Griffith, Lester and Carl combine their educations and experience in arboriculture, electrical engineering and finance. Early on they decide to specialize in pruning trees around power and telephone lines. Some said this decision would limit the company's potential growth. However, combined with their personal talents, a sound investment strategy, and an ever-expanding utility industry, this decision to specialize drives the corporation's dramatic growth and success over the next 90 years.
Equipped with secondhand stake-body trucks, axes, cross-cut saws, ropes and ladders, the first Asplundh crews are hard at work on the properties of Philadelphia Electric Co. (now PECO Energy), Public Service Electric & Gas Co., Jersey Central Power & Light Co. (now a FirstEnergy company), Pennsylvania Power & Light Co. and American Telephone & Telegraph. To stay ahead of the competition, Asplundh initiates training schools to develop a corps of tree trimmers educated in line clearance methods and proper pruning techniques. Training schools would prove to be critical to the company's survival during the ensuing Great Depression when many tree companies folded and Asplundh absorbed inexperienced or poorly trained tree workers.
In the depths of the Great Depression, the three brothers do without salaries in order to keep the business afloat and the crews working. However, by 1934 new contracts were being established and Asplundh's new growth warrants a move to larger quarters in nearby Jenkintown which had room for a tool repair shop, as well as more office space.
Oswald Asplundh leaves his nursery business to join his brothers' enterprise. He leads the expansion of operations further into the Midwest.
A new era in the line clearance industry begins with the invention of the power saw. The first gasoline powered saws are bulky and require two men to operate them, but Asplundh crews step up their productivity through the use of them.
In the late 1930s, storm emergency work plays a part in the company's continued growth. Utilities eagerly hire Asplundh tree crews who are trained to work around hot wires. Continued growth makes it necessary to move the offices once again, this time to 505 Old York Road, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania where headquarters would remain for the next 35 years.
To boost morale and improve communications, the first issue of The Asplundh TREE is mimeographed and distributed to our crews who can be found working throughout the Middle Atlantic, into the Midwest, as far south as Georgia and the Carolinas and westward into Texas and New Mexico.
World War II rationing makes it difficult to acquire fuel, tools and supplies, but more importantly, hundreds of experienced tree workers leave for military service overseas. One result of the war was the development of herbicides, and with this new technology, Asplundh begins to diversify by offering utilities 'chemical brush control' for their rights-of-way.
Asplundh's equipment specialists address the problem of brush disposal by manufacturing the first Asplundh chipper prototypes — a truck-mounted version and the more popular trailer model. Field testing begins the following year.
On Christmas Eve, our first president and a founder of the company Griffith Asplundh dies. In January 1949, Lester is elected president.
Asplundh's Equipment Department moves into the Philmont Shop in nearby Huntingdon Valley, which has more room for assembling chippers and maintaining or rebuilding vehicles and saws.
Office automation begins with the installation of primitive IBM computers to make payroll and billing procedures quicker and less labor intensive.
Seven sons of Griffith, Lester and Carl, the second generation, start to 'learn the ropes' by working in the field and Home Office.
During this decade, Asplundh's growth accelerates, spreading operations throughout New England and later into Florida and the Pacific Northwest.
A severe respiratory ailment sidelines Lester and he steps down as president. Carl is elected to fill the vacancy.
Asplundh helps to initiate a university research project in central Pennsylvania to validate the safe use of herbicides. Our spray crews still participate in this project with continuing benefits to the utility vegetation management industry.
The first supervisory training schools begin. Now held several times each year, the Asplundh Supervisory Training Program (renamed General Foreperson Training Program in 2011) provides technical and professional development for this level of management.
A formalized storm emergency procedure for Asplundh crews and customers is written and distributed in the wake of Hurricanes Carol and Hazel.
A subsidiary company, Asplundh Brush Control, is formed to specialize in utility right-of-way clearing and maintenance.
Always searching for a faster, easier way to get up into the trees, Asplundh had tried many ideas including a hand-cranked platform in 1929, wooden ladders mounted on revolving turrets in the early 1950s, and the first hydraulically-powered (but poorly insulated) lift trucks in the mid-1950s. A real solution comes along when Lester combines his engineering talent with a new spun-glass fiber and epoxy resin material called 'spiralloy' or fiberglass. Its strength and insulating qualities make for a perfect lift boom, so the first Asplundh lifts with fiberglass booms roll off the assembly line in 1958. They soon become an industry standard.
Land and a small plant in Chalfont, Pennsylvania are purchased to house lift manufacturing operations. This eventually becomes the Asplundh Manufacturing Division.
Branching out into new services, Asplundh offers treatment with preservatives and reinforcement techniques to extend the service life of wooden utility poles.
Further diversification occurs when Asplundh introduces underground utility construction and related services to electric and telephone companies in the Southeast and Middle Atlantic states.
On July 2, Carl Asplundh dies suddenly. Lester is elected president and chairman of the board temporarily.
Asplundh pioneers commercial thermographic / infrared inspection services. The Infrared Services Division helps utilities avoid serious equipment failures and power outages by detecting overheated circuits and parts.
The sons of the founders begin to take the wheel as Barr Asplundh, son of the late Griffith Asplundh, is elected president. All second generation family members working for the company are elected to seats on the Board of Directors.
The company forms its own commercial truck dealership, Asplundh GMC, which provides cost and supply advantages as the company expands its own fleet and manufacturing operations.
The Asplundh Street Lighting Division is established to provide inspection, washing and maintenance services to utilities and municipalities that operate street lighting systems.
With so much growth and diversification over the years, the Jenkintown headquarters building is bursting at the seams, even after several additions. To accommodate future growth, a modern building on a 12-acre lot is purchased on Blair Mill Road in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, our current location. Four major additions and a large shop building have been built since then.
Branching out to serve a new market, the Asplundh Railroad Division is formed to provide vegetation management services to the nation's railroads.
Another addition is made to Asplundh's utility service selection when it establishes the One-Call Division to set up and operate One-Call centers. These centers act as the communications link between excavators and member utilities who have underground lines to protect.
After 14 years as president, Barr is elected Chairman of the Board and Edward Asplundh, son of the late Carl Asplundh, is elected president. Lester, who is now 81, becomes an Honorary Chairman.
On May 3, after 56 years of influencing and managing the company's progress, Lester dies.
International operations begin to take off in Canada as Asplundh buys out its partner in Ontario and acquires a right-of-way maintenance company in Alberta.
The Asplundh GMC dealership moves to a new building in Manahawkin, New Jersey and a Buick franchise is added.
A brand new facility in Creedmoor, North Carolina becomes home to the Asplundh Manufacturing Division after 26 years in Chalfont.
The Municipal Tree Division is established to assist regional managers in pursuing contracts with municipal utilities and other public sector agencies.
Our first overseas line clearance contract commences in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The first of 15 third generation Asplundh family members completes the company's Family Management Development Program. This program requires several years of field training and is designed to prepare family members for executive-level sponsor responsibilities.
Acquisitions of two tree service companies in British Columbia and a right-of-way clearing company in Alberta greatly expand our Canadian operations.
With the addition of line clearance operations in Hawaii, Asplundh is now working in all 50 states.
Expansion into Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces of Canada also begins with the establishment of Asplundh Canada, Inc.
As Asplundh celebrates its 60th anniversary, it's noted that four of our original five customers have contracted Asplundh crews continuously since 1928. At least 24 other utilities have contracted our crews for 40 years or more.
Diversification continues with the acquisition of American Lighting and Signalization, Inc., a Florida-based heavy electrical contractor that specializes in the construction and maintenance of traffic signal systems and roadway lighting.
The first of the second generation family members working for the company, Barr and Boyd Asplundh, retire from day-to-day operations. They remain on the Board as Chairman and Secretary, respectively.
Internationally, Asplundh reaches further beyond the North American continent with a joint venture in New Zealand and the acquisitions of several small line clearance companies in France.
Robert Asplundh, son of the late Lester Asplundh, is elected Chairman of the Board.
Utility line construction operations in the Northeast greatly expand with the acquisition of B & J Maintenance Co., Inc., a Long Island based company in New York. The name is changed to Asplundh Construction, Corp. two years later as it begins to expand its overhead and underground electric and gas construction services into other regions of the United States.
To increase lift crew productivity and mobility, the Asplundh Manufacturing Division introduces the LRIII-55 aerial lift which is capable of over-center movement and has an additional five feet of reach.
Our western Canadian operations are now consolidated under the subsidiary Asplundh Canada, Inc.
An agreement is completed in July to sell the Asplundh Manufacturing Division to Altec Industries, Inc.
After 38 years with the company and 10 years as its president, Edward Asplundh steps down and later resigns. The Board of Directors elects his younger brother Chris to be the corporation's sixth president.
The concept of outsourcing grows in popularity among utilities looking to become more efficient and competitive. Asplundh addresses one aspect of this need by offering meter reading services for the first time.
More international growth takes place as new line clearance operations commence in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Asplundh participates in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's annual meeting for the first time, as well as in the first "Trees and Utilities National Conference" sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Our involvement in these valuable organizations continues through today.
At the close of the company's 65th anniversary year, Asplundh greatly expands its vegetation management capabilities with the acquisition of certain assets of Southeastern Public Service Co., a holding company for several long-established line clearance companies.
Our newly developed Line Clearance Training Certification Program is endorsed by the National Arborist Association (now Tree Care Industry Association) and meets new OSHA criteria. Asplundh works with industry representatives to develop the ANSI A300 Pruning Standard which aims to promote better tree care and professionalism in the industry. ANSI A300 is approved the following year.
Chairman of the Board Robert Asplundh retires, but remains on the Board, and Paul Asplundh, son of the late Griffith Asplundh, is elected Chairman.
Within a few short months, more than 90 percent of Asplundh employees have completed the OSHA-mandated Training Certification Program — a high percentage for the tree care industry overall.
In the Pacific Northwest, Asplundh gains more specialized equipment with the acquisition of certain assets of D & M Contracting. Use of this specialized equipment, including Slashbuster mowers, increases productivity and enables us to serve new markets.
As deregulation of the electric utility industry progresses and utilities seek ways to become more competitively priced with superior reliability, Asplundh enters into strategic alliances with a growing number of its customers to help them control costs and improve service. Likewise, Asplundh forms alliances with some of its major suppliers to reap the same benefits in price and value.
Continuing growth in the Meter Services Division warrants the establishment of a new subsidiary, Utility Meter Services, Inc.
Operations in France are closed.
Branching out into a new aspect of utility services, Asplundh acquires Underground Utility Locating, Inc. This subsidiary offers locating services which help protect excavators and prevent damage to the underground facilities of electric, gas and telecommunications companies.
Chairman of the Board Paul Asplundh retires, but remains on the Board of Directors and Carl Asplundh, Jr. is elected Chairman.
In a move to become a much larger player in the underground utility locating business, Asplundh purchases all the stock of Central Locating Service, Ltd., a well-established company based in Syracuse, New York.
A massive ice storm in early January causes Asplundh to mobilize over 580 tree crews and 100 construction crews, the largest number ever sent to help utilities restore power in Quebec, Ontario, upper New York state and parts of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. For the first time in company history, crews were sent into Canada (more than 300 of them) and 30 crews (plus lift trucks) were airlifted by the military from North Carolina to Maine.
As Asplundh celebrates its 70th anniversary, we look back once more to see the relationships that have endured and prospered while the company expanded and changed. Of the five original customers, four have contracted with Asplundh continuously since 1928.
Asplundh moved ahead with more acquisitions in line construction (Utility Lines Construction Services, Inc.) and underground utility locating.
Asplundh received a welcome influx of vegetation management specialists and equipment when the company purchased the line clearance operations of the F.A. Bartlett Tree Expert Company.
Scott Asplundh, with 20 years of experience in the field and Home Office, becomes president as Chris Asplundh, Sr. moves into the position of Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer.
A new subsidiary is established to assist local and state agencies in disaster recovery – Asplundh Environmental Services, Inc.
Asplundh celebrates its 75th Anniversary and its role as a world-class service provider. The company has played a part in advancing proper pruning and safety standards, specialized line clearance equipment, such as self-propelled backyard lifts and chippers, ultra low volume herbicide application, high production pruning and chipping operations and a project management focus for utility vegetation management.
Utility Meter Services, Inc. expands into automatic meter installations with the acquisition of VSI Meter Services, Inc.
Asplundh's safety vision, "Safety First ... No One Gets Hurt!®", is announced throughout the company and industry.
UtiliCon Solutions, Ltd. is established as a new holding company for all the non-vegetation management subsidiaries with George Graham named as its president.
Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma devastate the Gulf Coast and inland from Florida to Texas. More than 5,000 employees work for weeks on end cleaning up. For the first time in company history, storm logistics such as housing, catering, sanitation and security are handled completely by Asplundh in a restoration effort for Coast Electric Cooperative in Mississippi.
A new subsidiary, ArborMetrics Solutions, Inc., is established to provide vegetation management technology consulting and contract personnel services.
In response to two previous years of record-breaking hurricane seasons, a mobile storm center trailer is launched and a full-fledged logistics program is started to offer 'tent city' services to utilities during storm emergencies.
A GPS-based vehicle locating pilot program (known as AVMS) is initiated. This involves mounting an electronic device in the vehicle, which sends location and equipment operation data through a wireless network to a data center. This system will help to make work routines more efficient and improve safety.
As the company begins its 80th year in the vegetation management business, Asplundh enjoys the full benefit of its Safety Management Process (SMP) and our improved safety culture with fewer injuries and lower claims costs.
Despite the effects of the Great Recession, Asplundh invests in the future with better mobile technology, safety and professional development.
The last of the second generation leadership, Chris Asplundh, passes the torch as Chief Executive Officer to third generation member Scott Asplundh. George Graham, Jr. is elected president of both Asplundh and UtiliCon.
The term “SafeProduction®” is introduced to emphasize the concept that safety and productivity go hand-in-hand. SafeProduction® becomes the new industry standard in safe, efficient operations.
Steven Asplundh, a highly experienced third generation member, is elected president of UtiliCon Solutions, Ltd.
Through acquisitions and organic growth, the Asplundh Tree Expert Co. begins its 85th year with over 30,000 employees!
Our ‘Go Green’ initiative, Asplundh’s Mobile Time Entry and e-Paystub programs, have approximately 20,000 participants each.
To help reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Asplundh became one of the first companies in the vegetation management industry to develop and field test propane autogas for medium-duty trucks in its fleet.
To provide Wi-Fi accessibility at the crew level in the field, vehicles begin to be outfitted with 4G LTE connectivity in our Truck-as-a-Hub pilot program.
Asplundh’s Line Clearance Qualification Standard (LCQS) is updated with new training material covering chipper operations, rigging, climbing, human performance and leadership.
Asplundh further diversifies with a move into the commercial landscape market. Reliable Property Services, Inc. in Minnesota, and T.R. Gear Landscaping, Inc. in Ohio are acquired, providing mowing, landscape and snow removal services.
Rotor Blade, LLC, a South Carolina company providing aerial side trimming, topping and patrolling services via helicopter, is acquired.
Asplundh’s Safety Operations Group rolls out new online initiatives to keep our industry-leading crews working safely and efficiently. TapRoot is introduced for root cause analysis, and SafetySuite is launched to track incident reporting, audits, inspections, corrective and preventive action, Safety Data Sheets and training.
Hurricane Matthew struck the Southeast and over 5,000 of our tree and line crews were deployed to assist our customers in the power restoration efforts.
Continued growth in the commercial landscape market results in the creation of Five Seasons Property Management. Five Seasons now consists of one start-up operation and the five acquired landscape companies, with work in 16 states and 1,580 employees.
In 2017, significant executive level changes took place shortly before the August 10 passing of Chairman of the Board Christopher B. Asplundh, the last of the second generation executives to lead the enterprise. Scott Asplundh was elected Chairman of the Board, in addition to his CEO responsibilities. George Graham was named President/Chief Operating Officer of Asplundh Tree Expert, LLC with four presidents reporting to him: Gregg Asplundh as president of Asplundh East, Matt Asplundh as president of Asplundh West, Chris Asplundh, Jr. as president of Utility Vegetation Services and David Fleischner, as president of Canadian operations. Steven Asplundh was named Chief Operating Officer of UtiliCon Solutions, LLC and Brent Asplundh reports to him as president. David Fleischner also reports to Scott Asplundh as president of Five Seasons Property Management (FSPM), our commercial landscape management group.
Two more commercial landscape companies were acquired.
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate kept the field and Home Office operations humming.
During the first five months of 2018, dozens of tree and line repair crews were deployed to Puerto Rico with hundreds of pieces of equipment, helping to restore power after two hurricanes in September 2017.
In April, Five Seasons Property Management is renamed Aspen Grove Landscape Group, as a nod to the meaning of the Asplundh family name in Swedish – grove of aspen trees.
With more than 35,000 employees and thousands of equipment pieces operating, Asplundh celebrates the company’s 90th anniversary using the tagline: Honoring Our Past. Embracing The Future.