Environmental Industries, Inc. History

Address:
24121 Ventura Boulevard
Calabasas, California 91302
U.S.A.

Telephone: (818) 223-8500
Fax: (818) 223-8142

Website:
Private Company
Incorporated: 1949 as Valley Crest Landscape Nurseries, Inc.
Employees: 5,500
Sales: $500 million (1999 est.)
NAIC: 111421 Nursery and Tree Production; 56173 Landscaping Services; 54132 Landscape Architectural Services

Company Perspectives:

Welcome to Environmental Industries, Inc., the nation's largest full-service landscape, site development, and horticultural services contractor. Building and maintaining landmark projects for 50 years, we offer a complete range of services through our five operating divisions. See why more landscape architects, developers, general contractors, property managers and public agencies continue to choose Environmental Industries, Inc. by browsing our division Web sites. The seamless integration of our divisions streamlines production and reduces costs while our philosophy to meet and exceed client expectations ensures high quality and customer satisfaction. Environmental Industries, Inc.'s network of service centers and branch offices continues to grow nationwide as an expanding family of companies. Key Dates:

Key Dates:

1949:
Burton S. Sperber and his father open Valley Crest Landscape Nurseries, Inc., in North Hollywood, California.
1954:
Burt Sperber obtains his Landscape Architect license.
1959:
Company is renamed Valley Crest Landscape, Inc.
1961:
Valley Crest Tree Co. is opened on three acres of land.
1966:
Expands into Northern California market.
1969:
Environmental Industries, Inc. is formed to consolidate multiple operating units.
1970:
Environmental Care Inc. is formed to consolidate landscape maintenance services.
1990:
Environmental Golf is formed to consolidate golf course construction and maintenance.
1996:
Environmental Industries acquires U.S. Lawns.
1999:
Company celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Company History:

Originating as a retail landscape nursery in southern California, Environmental Industries, Inc. (EII) is the largest full-service site development, landscape and horticultural services contractor in the United States. Its clients include landscape architects, developers, general contractors, property managers, and public agencies.

Over the years the company, which is owned by the Sperber family, developed a reputation for being able to handle big contracts on schedule. National contracts have included Walt Disney Co.'s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida; the Getty Museum in Los Angeles; the Mercedes-Benz corporate campus in Alabama; the Denver International Airport; and the 1996 Summer Olympic venues in Atlanta, Georgia, among others.

EII has five operating divisions and a growing nationwide network of service centers and branch offices. Environmental Care, Inc. (ECI) provides landscape maintenance and renovation, irrigation and water management, and tree care services. Valley Crest offers site development, landscape construction, irrigation installation, and concrete/water-theming. Valley Crest Tree Co. specializes in specimen tree growing, relocation, preservation, and wholesale nursery production. Environmental Golf is a one-stop source and expert in complete golf course construction, renovation, maintenance, and management. U.S. Lawns is a landscape maintenance franchise company.

From Retail Nursery to Landscape Business: 1949--60

In 1949 Burton S. Sperber and his father opened Valley Crest Landscape Nurseries, Inc., in North Hollywood, California. With just a few hundred dollars, an old pickup truck, and a dream, they planned to make a living with the nursery while developing a small landscape business. They hoped to take advantage of the post-World War II boom in new home construction that was taking place in the San Fernando Valley. After Burton Sperber obtained his Landscape Architect's and Engineering and Landscape Contractor's licenses, the company began doing landscape design and construction on apartment projects, industrial and commercial projects, and model home developments. The company developed a strong reputation in the home-building market for its on-time completions. It also began building golf courses in the 1950s.

In 1959 the company name was changed to Valley Crest Landscape, Inc. Focusing on landscape work, its fleet of poppy red trucks became a familiar sight throughout the new subdivisions in southern California. By the end of the 1950s the company was an industry leader in the landscape and landscape maintenance business, with contracts from California's school system and work on the state's growing highway system.

By 1960 Valley Crest had landscaped more than 100 schools in the Los Angeles area and was recognized for its expertise in landscaping parks, hillsides, and golf courses, as well as for landscaping thousands of homes throughout California. It was also one of the first landscape companies to do landscape work on freeways in California and later landscaped freeways in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Washington, and Nevada.

Multiple Operating Units in the 1960s

In 1961 the company established a tree-growing nursery called Valley Crest Tree Company. It was considered a major innovation in the wholesale nursery business to grow large specimen trees for major landscape projects, when other nurseries were primarily growing only one- and five-gallon trees and shrubs. Valley Crest Tree Company opened on three acres of land in Sepulveda, California, under the operating leadership of Burt's brother, Stuart Sperber. Under his leadership Valley Crest Tree Company developed high standards in moving large specimen trees and became known for its expertise in moving trees of any size.

In 1964 Valley Crest expanded by opening an office in Santa Ana, California, to serve the Orange County market. In 1966 it moved into the northern California market and began work on a multimillion-dollar landscape project, Rossmoor Leisure World, one of the largest retirement communities in the United States.

By 1965 Valley Crest had established branch operations throughout the United States. Its operations were connected by a computerized information system that provided support and information to its branch offices and facilitated the expansion of services.

New Organizational Structure: 1970--90s

In 1969, Environmental Industries, Inc. (EII) was formed for the purpose of consolidating ownership of the firm's multiple operating units. With the formation of EII, the company was reorganized into three operating divisions. Landscape maintenance services were consolidated into a new division of EII called Environmental Care, Inc. (ECI) in 1970. The company's other divisions were Valley Crest, headed by Burt Sperber's son, Richard A. Sperber, and Valley Crest Tree Co., headed by Burt's brother, Stuart Sperber. Together the company's three divisions provided a range of landscape and site development services.

Environmental Care was originally established with only two major landscape contracts in northern and southern California. In 1980 Bruce K. Wilson was appointed president of ECI. Within three years he expanded the division's operations by developing ten new branches, including offices in the East Bay area of San Francisco, Riverside, Palm Springs, San Diego, Houston, and Denver, and opened new markets in Florida and Georgia.

ECI distinguished itself by offering a broad range of landscape maintenance services. In addition to exterior landscape maintenance, it offered professional arborist services, irrigation and water management programs, interiorscapes, and sports turf maintenance. ECI could claim not only to maintain the value of its clients' landscape assets, but also to help them appreciate over time through year-round full maintenance programs for shrubs, groundcovers, seasonal color rotation, tree pruning, and water management.

Valley Crest focused on landscape and site construction. It became the largest landscape and site construction company in the United States. Working in any location in the United States, its services included site construction, landscape construction, irrigation installation, specialty concrete, water features and theming, golf course construction, natural and artificial sports fields, wetlands restoration, landfills, and gas recovery systems.

Valley Crest Tree Company focused on tree moving and growing. It was eventually organized into three divisions. The Specimen Contracting Division offered tree preservation and relocation services. It supplied, relocated, and procured specimen trees and operated worldwide from its offices in San Fernando, near Los Angeles. The Specimen Tree Division maintained an inventory of a wide variety of larger and rare specimen trees for use by developers, landscape architects, and landscape contractors. It specialized in unusual and distinctive trees not usually available from ordinary stock. The Nursery Division operated on more than 1,200 acres, with five growing facilities and four offices throughout California. It produced plant material, mainly specimen trees and shrubs, in container sizes ranging from one gallon to 72-inch boxes. It kept an inventory level of around two million items.

Two related companies operated as part of Valley Crest Tree. Environmental Landscape Products, Inc. provided plant materials for the interiorscape industry from its base in Orange County, California. Its greenhouse stocks commonly used materials as well as imported items from Florida and Hawaii. A related company, Garden Art International, specialized in Italian terra cotta pottery, hand-carved Italian limestone, cast iron pieces, and a variety of garden statuary, fountains, benches, and pedestals. It replicated existing pieces, created new products, and offered a line of finishes to customize each project.

Expanded Landscape Maintenance and Golf Course Construction in the 1990s

Environmental Golf was established in 1990 as a separate subsidiary. Previously, EII had been building golf courses through its subsidiary company, Valley Crest Landscape. Environmental Golf, though, would focus exclusively on building golf courses.

Environmental Golf maintained private and public golf courses throughout the country. It assumed all of the maintenance operating costs and the risk of maintaining its clients' golf courses. The company employed Class A level golf course superintendents and more than 1,500 horticultural technicians and owned more than 800 pieces of advanced turf equipment.

In addition to building and maintaining golf courses, Environmental Golf also owned and operated several courses. In 1999 it completed a cluster of five golf courses in southern California that it called California Classics. The five courses were Glenn Annie Golf Club and Sandpiper Golf Course in Santa Barbara, The Links at RiverLakes Ranch in Bakersfield, Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, and Westridge Golf Club in La Habra. Environmental Golf expected to enjoy many strategic advantages from owning and managing this cluster of championship courses. The final course, The Links at RiverLakes Ranch, opened Labor Day weekend in 1999.

The firm's landscape maintenance division, Environmental Care, Inc., grew steadily. By the end of the 1990s ECI was bringing in revenues in excess of $100 million and had 2,500 employees nationwide. Its national network of regional offices and service and operation centers were located throughout the Sunbelt and Southeast in California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida.

In 1996 ECI acquired U.S. Lawns, a rapidly growing lawn and landscape franchise organization based in Orlando, Florida. Its franchises extend coast-to-coast, primarily in the East, South, and Southeast from Maryland to Florida, Ohio to Texas, and also in California, Idaho, and Utah. U.S. Lawns (www .uslawns.com) was founded in Orlando, Florida, in 1986, as a landscape maintenance franchise company. Its network of franchises consisted of company-owned and operator-owned businesses. The company provided guidance, training, and support to its family of franchises through operations facilities that served as training hubs. A typical U.S. Lawn franchisee was encouraged to take on a wide range of landscape maintenance projects, including commercial and industrial centers, shopping malls, retail facilities, multifamily residential communities, homeowner associations, theme parks, civic centers, and so on. As of 1999 there were 46 U.S. Lawns franchises and company stores operating in 15 states.

Continuing Commitment to Community Service and Environmentally Friendly Practices into the 21st Century

As Valley Crest Landscape grew and developed into Environmental Industries Inc., it became the nation's largest landscape corporation with more than 5,500 employees and $450 million in sales. Throughout its history the company had pioneered environmentally friendly landscaping and site development. It received numerous awards and recognition, starting in the early 1950s, including honors from American Nurserymen, California Landscape Contractors, Colorado Landscape Architects, American Society of Landscape Architects, Sargent Shriver, Lady Bird Johnson, National Arborist Association, International Society of Arboriculture, Los Angeles Beautiful, and Grand Awards from the Associated Landscape Contractors of America.

As part of its community service commitment, the firm provided hundreds of scholarships annually to colleges and universities for students in landscape architecture and horticulture programs. Many of the scholarship recipients specialized in ornamental horticulture, irrigation technology, environmental resource management, and arbor science. EII and its operating divisions also supported agricultural education as corporate sponsors of the National Future Farmers of America Foundations and contributed to FFA's National Landscape and Nursery Career Development Event. EII also provided support to the Associated Landscape Contractors of America and its programs.

Other corporate support was directed to community medical services, housing, and education. As part of its 50th anniversary celebration in 1999, EII was building and donating 'Pocket Parks' in impoverished areas where there was a need for more parks to help preserve those communities.

The company was also a committed partner with the State of California's Integrated Waste Management Board to promote grass recycling and green resource management. It actively supported integrated landscape management programs to promote the efficient use of natural resources.

Through its operating divisions, Environmental Industries, Inc. was a vertically integrated landscape industry leader. It had the resources to handle several major projects simultaneously anywhere in the United States. The firm owned the industry's largest equipment fleet, and its network of branch locations enabled it to staff, manage, and complete projects to the highest standards on a local basis.

For the future, the company expected to use its vast resources to remain healthy and competitive. The company was likely to remain private and under the capable direction of the Sperber family. The firm boasted an experienced management team, and its employees demonstrated a great deal of loyalty to the family-controlled company. To quote Burt Sperber, 'Our business is all about building nature, making things grow, making things last, and nurturing them for generations to come.'

Principal Divisions: Environmental Care, Inc.; Valley Crest; Valley Crest Tree Co.; Environmental Golf; U.S. Lawns.

Principal Competitors: Tru-Green/LandCare; The Brickman Group.

Further Reading:

  • 'Calabasas Company Forms Golf Subsidiary,' Los Angeles Business Journal, June 11, 1990, p. 25.
  • '50 Years of Creating Living Art: Entrepreneurial Seeds Grow into Landscape Industry Giant,' company history, Environmental Industries Inc., 1999.
  • Lubove, Seth, 'Green Begets Green,' Forbes, December 14, 1998, p. 142.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 31. St. James Press, 2000.