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A Time Line: Over 80 Years of Asplundh People, Resources and Service
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, contact the Corporate Communications Department in Willow Grove for a copy of 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 trimming trees under the guidance of Oswald.
August 28, 1928
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 trimming trees around power and telephone lines. Some said this decision would limit the company's potential growth. However, this decision combined with their personal talents, a sound investment strategy, and an ever-expanding utility industry to drive the corporation's dramatic growth and success over the next 70 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 GPU Energy of New Jersey), 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 states, 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 joins a 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 provides technical and professional development for our general foremen.
A formalized storm emergency procedure for Asplundh crews and customers is written and distributed in the wake of Hurricanes Carol and Hazel.
A subsidiary companyAsplundh Brush Control Co. 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 a revolving turret 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. Two 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.
Line clearance operations commence in Hawaii so 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 & 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 Northeastoverhead and underground electric and gasgreatly expand with the acquisition of B & J Maintenance Co., Inc., a Long Island, New York-based company. The name is changed to Asplundh Construction, Corp. two years later as it begins to expand into other regions of the United States. In the ongoing effort to increase productivity and safety, as well as reduce employee turnover, Asplundh initiates professional line clearance training crews for their operations on several utility properties. This concept continues to be used when necessary for particular operations throughout the country.
Asplundh opens a Ford dealership in Ottsville, Pennsylvania.
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. The main benefit of the agreement is the assurance of a steady supply to Asplundh of modern, efficient aerial equipment at a reasonable cost.
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. Asplundh also acquires Read & Co. Utility Services, Ltd., an established tree service company in England serving customers throughout the United Kingdom.
Asplundh participates in the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association's annual meeting for the first time. The company's annual support of this convention and the organization in which many of our customers belong, 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 tree trimming companies. Contributing an experienced work force and an expanded customer base, the companies become a vital part of Asplundh Subsidiary Holdings, Inc. and they continue to operate as Blume Tree Services, Inc., Farrens Tree Surgeons, Inc., and Tree Preservation Co., Inc.
Asplundh participates in the first "Trees and Utilities National Conference" sponsored by the National Arbor Day Foundation. Our active participation in this valuable industry conference continues through today.
In February, a powerful ice storm wreaks havoc in 14 states. More than 1,650 crews from 25 management regions are on storm duty, helping to clear storm debris from roads and power lines. Training gets a big push as more Asplundh Supervisory Training Programs are held to integrate and develop supervision from the acquisition companies and expanding regional operations. Also, our newly developed Line Clearance Training Certification Program is endorsed by the National Arborist 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. In an effort to boost utility-related arboricultural research, Asplundh contributes $50,000 to the Research Trust of the International Society of Arboriculture and it continues to help raise much-needed research funds today. To improve the flow of information between Asplundh's diverse regional operations and reduce paperwork, a major computer networking project swings into full gear.
Within a few short months, more than 90 percent of Asplundh employees have completed the OSHA- mandated Training Certification Programa fairly 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.
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. in northern California accelerates its tree trimming program and for the first time in Asplundh history over 200 crews from all over the country are sent to work (for non-storm reasons) for several months at a time in the John Macri Region to help get the job done. Asplundh One Call goes international as it opens up One-Call centers in the Canadian province of Ontario and in Sydney, Australia. The 38-year-old Pole Maintenance Division evolves into a new subsidiary, Utility Pole Technologies, Inc.
Continuing growth in the Meter Services Division warrants the establishment of a new subsidiary, Utility Meter Services, Inc. Over 1,100 crews help utilities and municipalities in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland recover from the devastation of Hurricane Fran. Operations in France are closed and the Ford dealership is sold.
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. After over a year of development, Asplundh promotes its internet web site, www.asplundh.com, opening up a new communications link with current and potential customers and employees. Diversifying once again, Asplundh begins serving a new marketthe outdoor advertising industrywith the acquistion of Southern Outdoor Maintenance. Renamed Outdoor Maintenance Co., Inc., this new subsidiary provides vegetation management and construction services. 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 crewsthe largest number everto 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.
Our new locating subsidiary, Central Locating Service, Ltd., acquires certain assets of NORAM Damage Protection, expanding our locating operations in Texas, Arkansas and Illinois. 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. We salute the Asplundh people, resources and commitment to service that have made the company's success possible.
Read & Co. Utility Services Limited, Asplundh's subsidiary in the United Kingdom, is acquired by Fountain Forestry for an interest in this growing forest management and vegetation control company in the U.K.
More than 850 crews from 20 Asplundh management regions, more than the previous record of almost 700 after the January '98 ice storm, were mobilized in response to Hurricane Floyd in September.
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. became the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer.
A new subsidiary was set up to assist cities, counties and states 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 applications, high production pruning and chipping operations and a project management focus for utility vegetation management.
Meter Services expanded 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.
UtiiCon Solutions, Ltd. was established as a new holding company for all the non-vegetation management subsidiaries with George Graham named as its president.
Three new non-family sponsors were added. Highly experienced and effective vice presidents were chosen – Steve Bostock, Doug Gober and Larry Moore.
Four major hurricanes struck the U.S. mainland – Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. Both Asplundh and UtiliCon crews were called into action.
Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma devastated the Gulf Coast and inland from Florida to Texas. More than 5,000 employees worked for weeks on end cleaning up. For the first time in company history, storm logistics such as housing, catering, sanitation and security were handled completely by Asplundh in a restoration effort for Coast Electric Cooperative in Mississippi.
A new subsidiary, ArborMetrics Solutions, Inc., was 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.
Through a partnership with Utility Risk Management Corp., ArborMetrics Solutions, Inc. began to offer Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) inspection, analysis and reporting services to help utilities identify vegetation risks to transmission lines.
An Automated Vehicle Locating (AVL) pilot program was initiated. This involves mounting an electronic device in the vehicle, which sends location and equipment 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 enjoyed the full benefit of its Safety Management Process (SMP) and our improved safety culture with fewer injuries and lower claims costs.
Hurricanes Gustav and Ike put our storm coordination and logistics expertise to the test as more than 2,000 Asplundh and UtiliCon company crews assisted utilities in restoring power ot millions of customers.
Despite the effects of the Great Recession, Asplundh invested in the future with better mobile technology, safety and professional development.
The last of the second generation leadership, Chris Asplundh, passed the torch as Chief Executive Officer to third generation member Scott Asplundh. George Graham, Jr. was elected president of both Asplundh and UtiliCon.
The term “SafeProduction” was introduced to emphasize the concept that safety and productivity go hand-in-hand.
Steven Asplundh, a highly experienced third generation member, was elected president of
UtiliCon Solutions, Ltd.
Through acquisitions and organic growth, the Asplundh Tree Expert Co. began its 85th year with over 32,000 employees!