Some say that when you do what you love, you won’t work a day in your life. Brett Kallias of Accelerated Greenworks, says there’s definitely truth behind that expression. Kallias discovered his passion at the age of 15, and since deciding to follow it, his work hasn’t been work at all.
A native of Minot, ND, Kallias began his own lawn care business while in high school and continued operating the business in the summers during college. After earning a degree in Construction Engineering from North Dakota State University in Fargo, Kallias decided to sell his business and accept a job with the North Dakota Department of Transportation – where he worked for four years. In those four years, he couldn’t ignore the growing feeling that something was missing. The passion he had when he was working in landscaping just wasn’t there. In 2006, he listened to his heart and opened his landscaping business in West Fargo. Accelerated Greenworks has been steadily growing ever since, and Kallias couldn’t be happier.
“When I first started the business, I was running solo except for a couple of guys that I hired to help in the summer,” Kallias said. “I now have a full-time office manager, a full-time summer crew of 20 employees and a year-round part time crew of 40 people.”
A full-service landscaping, yard restoration and snow removal business, Accelerated Greenworks operates throughout the state of North Dakota, as well as the northwestern half of Minnesota. In 2011, one North Dakota job in particular hit close to home – and Kallias couldn’t turn it down.
Minot was struck by severe flooding during June 2011. The flood, which was the worst recorded in Minot history, caused significant damage to more than 4,000 homes and businesses – not to mention the emotional toll it took on city residents. As often seen during times of devastation, Minot’s residents leaned on one another for strength, support and the ability to rebuild what was lost. People from across the state reached out their hands to help in any way they could. That list included Kallias and his crew.
“Minot is and will forever be my hometown,” Kallias said. “So, there was no question in my mind that I would help in any way that I could. I initially brought a few of my guys with me, and we cleaned out basements that were damaged by the flood.”
While in Minot, Kallias caused quite the stir. Many residents knew about Kallias’s landscaping business and approached him for help with yard reconstruction efforts. It was enough work, in fact, to keep Accelerated Greenworks busy for three months. At first, Kallias thought nothing of taking on the additional work. After all, Accelerated Greenworks is no stranger to flood reconstruction projects. The Minot flood, however, brought new challenges the team hadn’t faced in the past.
Floods in North Dakota typically happen during the early spring months when the grass is dormant. The Minot flooding was unusual in the fact that it occurred when the growing season was in full swing – suffocating grass, sod, bushes and hedges. Accelerated Greenworks would have to completely redo each yard, removing all of the dead greenery before the soil could be reconditioned and yards revived.
In addition to suffocated foliage needing to be removed, yards also were full of flood debris. This included up to 6 inches of silt, as well as debris from decks, sheds and other items that had been tossed around during the disaster. All of this coupled with Minot’s uneven terrain, resulted in the realization that it wouldn’t be a typical reconstruction project – nor an easy task. The job was estimated to take at least 24 hours of work time for each yard reconstructed.
Kallias, however, was up for the challenge – and so was his crew of 16. Kallias even had a secret weapon up his sleeve that would cut the time spent on each yard in half.
“In 2010, we were approached by Grouser Products to test a new land plane that was in prototype stages,” Kallias said. “Always looking for ways to improve efficiencies, we gladly accepted the testing opportunity.”
Based in West Fargo, ND, Grouser Products provides a full line of heavy-duty dozer and belly blades, as well as an extensive series of over-the-tire tracks and track parts. Through more than 30 years in business, Grouser has produced and manufactured industrial-grade products designed to increase productivity and versatility. The prototype it presented to Accelerated Greenworks was no exception.
Known as the V3 FlexPlane, the prototype is unlike any other land plane in that it incorporates a self-adjusting blade that pivots to easily maneuver over uneven landscapes. Easily attaching to any make or model of skid steer loader, the V3 FlexPlane immediately proved beneficial on Minot’s hilly terrain. The contouring action of the FlexPlane prevents floating empty and conversely eliminates the issue of corners digging in to high spots in the planing surface.
“Seeing the versatility of the FlexPlane was really inspiring,” Kallias admitted. “And after using it, I realized just how beneficial it was to the work that we do. I can’t imagine using anything else.”
The self-adjusting blades allowed Accelerated Greenworks to create a consistent cutting pattern throughout the terrain. Unlike a rigid plane, operators never need to stop and manually re-adjust the plane for different ground levels.
“During the Minot reconstruction project, we used two FlexPlane prototypes. This significantly increased job productivity,” Micah Zimmerman, employee at Accelerated Greenworks said. “Continually adjusting to uneven ground, the flexible blades allowed us to easily conquer Minot’s terrain.”
In addition, the FlexPlane was versatile enough to complete the cleanup of debris from a yard, cut out dead sod and level the ground – all without having to stop and switch out the skid steer attachment.
“The FlexPlane incorporates large rear side plates in the back end that can act as a bucket,” Kallias added. “This enabled us to use the plane to collect the dead sod and soil, and then dump it – never having to change the piece of equipment or even get off of the skid steer loader.”
The positive feedback from Accelerated Greenworks came at no surprise to Grouser Products. The company itself had the same reaction when Troy Nicolai of Mankato, Minn., initially introduced the product to Grouser in 2009.
“I have used Grouser products for years, and have always been impressed by the quality products they produce,” Nicolai, inventor of the V3 FlexPlane said. “So I knew that it was the company that I wanted to work with to take the design and help bring it to life.”
Nicolai had been working on the V3 FlexPlane design for six years before approaching Grouser Products. Coming from a construction background, Nicolai knew exactly how the plane should operate to benefit the industry. He worked diligently, spending his nights and weekends welding, building, testing and tweaking his idea until it came to life. That’s when he introduced it to Grouser and slowly watched his dream become a reality.
“The collaboration with Grouser has been better than I could have ever imagined,” Nicolai said. “The team took the design, and we worked together to perfect the construction of it. Grouser has also been providing me with all of the positive feedback the company’s been getting on the prototype.”
Positive feedback may even be a bit of an understatement for the enthusiastic response to the FlexPlane – especially after its work in Minot. The V3 FlexPlane has easily proven its worth, and Nicolai, Grouser Products and Accelerated Greenworks couldn’t be happier.
“We used the land plane probably five out of seven days per week that we were in Minot,” Kallias said. “Its versatility aided in the reconstruction process, and its simple and open-view design made it easy and safe to use.”
Beyond the time saving benefits, Accelerated Greenworks discovered that the FlexPlane was versatile enough to use even before cutting ground. In addition to removing the dead sod on the Minot lawns, the crew realized that the equipment was durable enough for cutting down and cleaning up the flood debris – silt, decks and other items. In the typical 12-hour day of initial yard cleanup, the crew removed debris from the yard, cut out the dead sod, grass and hedges, and evenly leveled the soil – all while using the V3 FlexPlane. Afterward, the crew used the plane to break up and level the new soil that was brought into the yards for the next phase of the reconstruction process.
“The versatility of the plane was extremely beneficial for increasing job productivity,” Kallias said. “However, even before using the prototype in Minot, we all pretty much fell in love with it.”
Kallias’s crew had been working with the prototype for a year before the reconstruction project, and after seeing what the FlexPlane was capable of, it was no question the team would bring it to Minot. When Accelerated Greenworks was first given the equipment to test, Grouser requested that they not hold back – even going as far as telling them to try to break it. Grouser hoped to see exactly how durable the FlexPlane was, and wanted to identify any potential weak spots. And Accelerated Greenworks put it to the test. The crew used the equipment to break down hardened clay, and even to push upwards of 500 pounds of concrete. The FlexPlane never broke.
“Grouser has been great to work with because we were given free reign to do whatever we wanted with the equipment,” Kallias added. “I mean, what other company gives you a product and tells you to use it and abuse it?”
Additionally, Grouser worked side by side with Accelerated Greenworks on any issue that the team had with the FlexPlane. If the plane didn’t fit quite right on the skid steer or if a bolt was loose, Grouser immediately reworked it and got it back to Accelerated Greenworks. Other than fixing a few minor details and strengthening a couple of bolts, however, Grouser didn’t have much to rework. The design and construction was solid from the start – which was a huge reason why Kallias needed it in Minot during the reconstruction project.
Accelerated Greenworks reconstructed the yards of nearly 15 homes affected by the flood. The team used two FlexPlane prototypes on the jobs, and never had to stop work for mechanical issues. Considering how much time was saved on each yard, the crew accomplished nearly twice what it would have typically done during the three months in Minot without the use of the V3 FlexPlane.
In fact, the prototype made such an impact on Accelerated Greenworks that the company is already planning on purchasing its own.
“We’ll absolutely be purchasing a FlexPlane,” Kallias confirmed. “Actually, we won’t be purchasing one FlexPlane, we’ll probably purchase two!”
Due to the superior work that Accelerated Greenworks completed in Minot in the summer of 2011, it has already scheduled a summer full of jobs to be completed there again in 2012 – validation that Kallias and the V3 FlexPlane are exactly where they were meant to be.
The self-adjusting blade made it easy for Accelerated Greenworks to create a consistent cutting pattern over uneven landscapes.
Accelerated Greenworks used the V3 FlexPlanes to complete the cleanup of debris from a yard, cut out dead sod and level the ground.
Accelerated Greenworks brought a crew of 16, and two V3 FlexPlane prototypes to Minot.
The contouring action of the FlexPlane prevents floating empty and made it beneficial on Minot’s hilly terrain.