Homegrown Business Continues to Thrive
A-Tech Landscape Design Inc. grows from the ground up
Jon Dean is one man who can say he built his company from the ground up.
An entrepreneur and community volunteer, Jon has turned a grassroots business into one that’s blossomed into a leading landscape design firm.
Jon is Vice President and Founder of A-Tech Landscape Design Inc., a South Plainfield, New Jersey-based landscape design, build and maintain company serving New Jersey and New York City. He began in the landscaping business by cutting grass. He has nurtured his love of working outside to include tree and shrub planting, paving, snow removal, swimming pool installation and irrigation services all the way up to the design and construction of rooftop patios and other amenities.
Jon and his business partner, Vincent Butrico, started A-Tech Landscape Design in 1998, and Jon says over time, the firm’s project work shifted from half residential and half commercial to all commercial projects by about 2012.
Snow Removal Pays Off
“It made much more financial sense to concentrate on commercial projects. My role in the company is handling all bidding of jobs and managing the work crews. I interface with our clients and also oversee all of our jobs,” Jon says.
One of the more surprising offshoots of the company’s work has become snow removal. On average, it snows about 23 inches each year in New Jersey, and A-Tech Design’s crews are ready and eager to scoop it up.
“We do a ton of snow removal for shopping malls, condominiums and corporate parks. It’s become a lucrative part of our business, demonstrated by the fact that snow removal accounted for about $1.6 million of our gross revenue in 2019.
“Many of our clients have snow removal budgets,” he explains. “Usually, we sign four-year contracts for the snow removal work. With snowfalls varying from year to year, the length of this agreement works to benefit both sides.”
Other types of work A-Tech Landscape Design performs include constructing retaining walls, curbing, sidewalks, pavers, fencing, irrigation systems and all types of landscaping services, including tree removal and land clearing. The company also designs and builds high-rise patios, outdoor kitchens and in-ground swimming pools. Gross revenues from this portion of the business were about $4.5 million in 2019.
He points out one of his company’s differentiators is the fact that his 40-person workforce is made up of professional craftworkers, highly trained in landscape construction and masonry.
“On most of our jobs, there are about 20 of our workers who each have had a role in some phase of the assignment, all of them working in sequence. Our designers, builders, irrigation specialists and landscape installers complete their work portions and hand the remainder of the job on to our next specialist. Having workers who specialize in certain tasks is something that sets us apart from competitors,” he says.
Handling All Aspects of a Job
“We perform such wide-ranging types of landscaping work in order to make it easier for our clients,” he explains. “This way, we can handle more aspects of their jobs, resulting in a more turnkey approach.”
A-Tech Landscape Design targets general contractors, property managers, building owners, management companies and developers for project opportunities. Jon promotes his company via websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and The Blue Book Building and Construction Network (The Blue Book Network), from which he says nearly all his leads are generated. He notes that one of the advantages of posting information about the company’s work on social media is that he can add photos, videos and project updates regularly.
“Our clients want to see what’s going on with their projects and this helps us to be more responsive to their needs,” he explains. “I keep track of how each project is progressing, and I help solve any troubles so we can meet our deadlines. I also work closely with the general contractors who know they can hand off their projects to us and not have to worry about them.”
Jon says he gets a lot of assistance from his staff. Anthony Canonico joined the company in 2018 and manages sales and bidding. Bill Thiel, Operations Manager, coordinates plantings, orders and deliveries and on-site installations. Danielle Staunton handles scheduling, proposals, and coordination of orders and materials with Jon and Anthony.
Thinking Outside the Box
Sometimes, Jon says, the company’s original assignments will lead to additional projects while the job is underway. One such project was the company’s work on The Grande at Metropark, a 335-unit luxury residential apartment complex that began construction in August 2017 in Woodbridge, New Jersey.
A-Tech Landscape Design’s initial contract, which began in 2018, was to landscape the grounds, including plants and grass, and build the hardscaping features, such as patios, rooftop courtyards and an outdoor kitchen.
“Soon, the developer asked us to construct decorative rumble roads that we installed using Belgium Block. As the project progressed, we also poured the concrete sidewalks,” he says. “We worked closely with the project’s general contractor. We were already on-site, so we could provide whatever was needed in hardscape or softscape on demand.”
One complex portion of that job involved the installation of a structural retaining wall, which had to be built over and not interrupt a fiber optic hub imbedded in the ground. The hub enclosure provides the connection between fiber optic cables and optical splitters of a network. In this case, the hub provided service to many New York City banks and area military operations.
“Making this go correctly was of utmost importance. So, we came up with a plan to pour a concrete bridge over the hub to protect the hub piping from the retaining wall foundation,” he recalls. “The owner and developer were satisfied with the results, and that’s why our project work grew in scope.”
Another project that expanded in scope was A-Tech Landscape Design’s original work for Queens Gate Apartments, a 144-unit apartment complex in Bound Brook, New Jersey.
“At first, we were cutting the grass, then we installed the developer’s plants and trees. The developer was building a clubhouse in the back of the project and asked us to design and install an outdoor kitchen, in an odd-shaped, relatively small space” he recalls. They had a long list of what they wanted in the space, and we were able to put it all together,” he says.
“We came up with a design concept for an 80-foot by 200-foot trapezoid-shaped patio with pergolas, fire pits, a basketball court and dog run. They loved it.”
Last year, A-Tech Landscape Design formed A-Tech Civil Service, a separate company that performs civil work for the construction of cellphone towers.
“A-Tech Civil Service is a site contractor that self-performs everything from utility excavation and site cleaning to masonry work,” Jon says.
Jon is not only a builder in the community, but he’s someone who has worked within his community to improve it. He was elected to a three-year term on the South Plainfield Borough Council in 2016 and served as liaison to the borough’s environmental and health committees and member of the recreation and public works committees.
“It was a great honor to serve the borough that I was raised in. Over the course of my term, I was asked how I was able to run a company, manage my family time and still have time for the council,” he says. “It wasn’t easy, but having an amazing wife and kids who understood my professional responsibilities helped a great deal.”
This entrepreneur has observed that construction seems to be booming these days, so he anticipates his commercial landscape design and installation work will continue to thrive and bloom.