Peter DeVore’s company, Landscape Concepts Construction, Inc., gets around. Based in Grayslake (but soon to move its headquarters to Richmond), the company does work in Illinois and Wisconsin. Not bad for someone who started as a teenager mowing weeds.
Later, while studying finance, horticulture and agriculture at three different community colleges -- McHenry, the College of Lake County, and Harper -- he and a partner worked for a landscape company. In 1986 they bought that company, which then employed about 20 people. Over the years, the company grew to be ranked as the 12th largest landscape contracting firm in the nation until it evolved into two separate entities.
In 2005, the division was formalized, “Now we each can focus on growing our companies in the diverse directions that we had planned,” DeVore says.
The company provides a full array of services, including landscape construction, maintenance and management, as well as excavation and ecological restoration. The latter has become an increasingly large part of his business. “We are doing more streambank, ravine, wetland and woodland restoration projects,” DeVore says. “We didn’t see these three to five years ago.” Clients for these services run the gamut from a few private residences to municipalities, forest preserves, park districts and residential/commercial developments. The trend is toward using native plants and naturally-occurring materials in conjunction with inert, typically manufactured, items to control erosion along stream banks, ponds, lakes and creeks.
“It works better and lasts longer,” he says, “Wildlife welcomes it. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and much more environmentally sensitive and sustainable than the ways things were done 20 years ago.” DeVore paved the way for this work by purchasing a hydro seeder many years ago. At the time, many municipalities required developers to provide a good, solid seed bed that also provided short-term erosion control. “We have evolved as the industry has evolved,” he says.
Crucial to this growth and evolution have been the employees in his organization, DeVore notes. Landscape Concepts Construction employs about 100 full-time year-round employees, with about 400 in the peak season. These include team leaders Paul Bruggen, vice president of operations, and Scott Knollenberg, sales manager. Bruggen has worked for the company for 20 years, winning praise from DeVore for his attention to detail, dedication and “willingness to work through any situation. I couldn’t replace him.” In the last 16 years, Knollenberg has developed an in-depth knowledge of the industry and its people making the company invaluable friends and cementing long-term relationships, while continuing to service repeat clients well. The list doesn’t end there. “We have hundreds of employees without whom we couldn’t make this happen,” he says.
Active in the community, Landscape Concepts Construction has donated trees, equipment and provided guidance to at least three Boy Scout/Eagle Scout projects in Grayslake, Libertyville and Johnsburg, as well as other Scout ventures. The company also has supplied material, labor and equipment to landscape several Habitat for Humanity houses.
A member of the ILCA since 1984, DeVore has become a proponent of the CLT and CLP programs, and has taken advantage of many educational and networking opportunities. “It’s a good organization to gauge ourselves,” he says, “We are able to learn about other contractors, new methods, and ways to train and educate our employees.” DeVore stresses education among his employees and has set a goal to have all of his landscape superintendents earn the CLP designation and all of his foremen become CLTs. “It’s important for the company and the employees to enhance their knowledge and professionalism,” he says. The Mid-Am trade show is also important to him. This year, nearly 25 of his employees participated.
Certification is central in other ways. Two years ago, the company continued the process by becoming certified by the National Association of Home Builders’ NHQ Certified Trade Contractor program, after noticing that it was a growing trend in the industry. “We are the only landscape or excavation contractor in the Midwest that is certified, and only one of nine in the nation,” he says.