Express Blower trucks key factor in company”s success and expansion into specialty products
EUGENE, Ore. — Making a good mulch product is one thing. Applying it to a commercial or residential landscape is another. For certain materials, such as mulch, compost, topsoil, and erosion control mixtures, potential value can only be fully realized if there is a way to apply it efficiently and profitably. After all, the best wheelbarrows, shovels and rakes are slow going and labor intensive.
Rexius, a family-owned business that has roots back to the 1920s, applies its line of mulch, compost and erosion control products with blower trucks made by Express Blower Inc. of Eugene, Ore. Rexius knows a lot about the equipment made by Express Blower because Rexius founded Express Blower and owned it until a year ago.
“We are now their best customer,” Dan Sutton, vice president of marketing at Rexius, said of the relationship between Rexius and Express Blower. Although Express Blower is now an independent company, there is ongoing collaboration between the two aimed at innovation. “We help them with their development,” said Dan.
The collaborative research and development resulted in a calibrated injection system. The injection system can be used to add precise amounts of biological agents, seed or fertilizer as mulch or other materials are being applied to a landscape. The blower trucks made by Express Blower and used by Rexius trace their origin to a different kind of business although a similar application. When Rexius was launched in the 1920s, it was a fuel business that supplied wood-based fuel for steam boilers. The University of Oregon was one of its first customers.
In those early years, Rexius collected wood waste — particularly sawdust — from mills and distributed it to customers who used it for boiler fuel. Rexius eventually began grinding wood residuals to add to the supply of sawdust it recovered. The blower trucks were developed in order to deposit the wood fiber into a customer’s storage area. About nine years ago, Rexius began promoting the blower technology nationwide.
Rexius continued to evolve. Besides making mulch, it bought a landscaping business. Today Rexius is primarily a landscaping service and supply company with an ever-increasing emphasis on erosion control products. Rexius erosion control products compete with plastic silt fence, bonded polymers and jute-based materials. One of its primary erosion control products is a trademarked sediment control device called EcoBerm. Rexius makes other trademarked products, such as EcoBlanket, Microblend and Terraseeding.
Researchers at the San Diego State University soil erosion research laboratory have tested EcoBerm on a 3:1 slope. The results indicate that EcoBerm reduces run-off, according to Dan. Other Rexius products also have been tested at the lab to determine their ability to reduce run-off, and the results are available at a Web site for EcoBerm (www.ecoberm.com).
Rexius is committed to additional research and development of its product line and contracted for tests of its Microblend product with BBC Laboratories Inc. in Tempe, Ariz. Results show that Microblend, the food for microorganisms, contributes to soil building and improving growing conditions. No matter how good or innovative these products are, however, they must be applied and spread at a customer site to optimum depth in order to maximize their benefits. For cutting-edge landscape products and services, such as simultaneously seeding and applying a soil medium that promotes seed growth, it takes reliable blower equipment.
“Without the Express Blower,” said Dan, “these techniques could not be put in place. It’s because of the equipment that we were able to develop.”
Rexius owns 15 Express Blower trucks. Besides reducing labor costs, the Express Blower trucks help reduce wasted material. Express Blower estimates that its pneumatic equipment reduces wasted materials by as much as 30% compared to manually applying mulch and other materials. In more pristine settings like schools, city parks, residential neighborhoods and commercial districts, the foot traffic associated with manual applications of mulch, compost or topsoil can leave a messy trail. Express Blower trucks put the product in the right place, eliminating spills.
Express Blower studies demonstrate that one Express Blower truck with one person operating it can spread five times as much mulch in one day as a five-person crew. The direct savings in employee payroll are easy to grasp. Other savings may be realized through reduced injuries to worker. The Express Blower truck can reach a distance of 800 feet. Express Blower also offers an In-Line Colorant Metering System. A lift tailgate is standard on trucks for easy unloading.
Compost and wood fiber are the building blocks of Rexius products. The company collects wood waste from a number of sources and processes it. “We have contracts with local mills for sawdust, shavings, chips,” said Dan. “We grind and re-grind.” Rexius also collects organic yard debris and manure and composts it with a forced aeration system. It has a contract with the city of Eugene to collect green waste, another big boost for its composting operations. “We blend all sorts of material for greenhouses, gardens,” and so on, said Dan. The blends combine soil, sand, humus, compost and mulch products.
Rexius, which employs about 250 people, operates a large, full-service facility to serve local retail customers. It also has a large bagging facility. Rexius sells to customers in Oregon, southern Washington and northern California. Specialty products, such as bark medium for orchids, are sold in international markets. Eugene, a city of about 115,000, has a long history of ties to the forest products industry. It is located on the Willamette River in the west-central part of the state.
“We have a very committed staff here,” said Dan. Most of the officer staff has been with Rexius more than 23 years. Many employees bring experience that enhances the company’s expertise. For example, Jack Hoeck is former president of the U.S. Composting Council.
Rexius is a family name — it was the surname of Dan’s mother — and most of the owners of Rexius are family members.
“I learned the business from the ground up,” said Dan. “I started in 1978, working in one of our blower trucks.” Dan majored in business management and finance at the University of Oregon. He appreciates the opportunity he has had to combine his hands-on learning experience at the company with formal business education. As it happens, Dan is an avid gardener in his spare time. He cultivates vegetable, flower and water gardens, focusing on gardens as integral parts of a landscape. He also is a very keen golfer.
But Dan is clear about where his top interest is. “I love the industry,” he said, “anything that has to do with the growing industry. I enjoy plant life and landscaping. I enjoy a very beautiful landscape. It’s my passion.”