Sweeping It Forward With a Vision

Curbco’s Vision
Some times when you decide to go into business you ought to think big. Have a huge vision and the energy and gumption to carry it out. This is how the story of Curbco, from Swartz Creek, Michigan, whose appropriate slogan is “curb to curb” service, began. At present, Curbco is one of the largest and most successful Sweeper/Property Maintenance companies in the North Midwest, with four full line service offerings, including: Sweeping/Power Washing; Paving and Construction; Landscaping and Horticulture; and Snow/Ice Removal. The huge vision was something in the mind of Mr. Keith Kirby, president and present managing owner of the company. “Now, we have millions of dollars invested in the best equipment money can buy,” Keith tells us, “but it wasn’t always this way; far from it.” “We started out in 1985 with a vision to be the biggest and best “curb to curb” full service company we could be, but our initial startup was very modest” says Keith.
“Our construction division was where we got our first taste of how difficult the industry could be, and so we knew we had a long road ahead of us if we wanted to fulfill our dream,” Keith says, continuing “now, we are deeply engaged with every major market involved in property and road management in the State of Michigan. It’s the depth of our management, labor, and equipment that allows us to service such a wide variety of demands each of these markets presents.” Curbco is fully equipped with the best machinery and some of the most experienced managers and workers coming from a wide range of related occupations and professions, and can take on the smallest or biggest contracts, offering everything from full asphalt and concrete work, to seal coating, to catch basin installation and repairs, to sewer repair, video inspection, retaining walls and soil erosion, and large-scale wetlands projects.
“We designed our business model in the 1980s but our vision is still being completed because we keep adding more services as our profits grow and markets opened up “says Keith. He is right about that. “Curbco has been designed, equipped, and staffed to mirror a municipal department of public works,” he tells us. “Many of our contracts are, to be honest, huge. Over the last few decades we have proudly served numerous Fortune 500 companies, large developers and home builders, schools and churches, road builders, industrial manufacturers and suppliers, and state, county, and local municipalities, you name it we have done it” Keith proudly announces.

Curbco’s Sweeping Division
“I don’t like to toot my own horn,” says Kirk Cowley, department head of the power sweeping and power washing division at Curbco, “but let’s say that since I became head of the sweeping division we have serviced all of the big three automotive suppliers, a few airports, police and fire agencies, numerous cities and villages, and MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation)” he says, continuing “and all of my sweepers run seven days a week with full routes of 10-12 stops per night. “We dispose of roughly 50 yards of debris per week in normal seasons, with our sweepers most productive in the spring and fall, and thousands of yards per year with our municipal contracts” says Kirk. “Our fleet of sweepers consists of 6 Elgin Eagles, 3 “F” series, 3 waterless, 2 Schwarze Gale Force models, 1 Schwarze 348-1, and 3 Mascos on Chevy cabs and chassis. All of the sweepers are pretty much standard, with tilt brooms, and dust control systems. All company vehicles are equipped with real time GPS tracking units, with supporting software that will eventually move us into a totally paperless operation in the near future” Keith reports. “Keith is the consummate professional” Kirk says, “with an immense base of knowledge and expertise about the sweeping industry, and we are truly blessed to have him as directing one of our largest and most successful divisions.”

Paving It Forward
Playing off of the concept of “paying it forward” Coast Pavement Services of Tigard, Oregon, another example of a huge and successful company that “does it all,” is proud to say that “we are the only contractor in the country giving 1% of each sales dollar to protect our environment” says Ken VanDomelen of his company. Coast is a member of “1% for the Planet,” an amazing organization, founded in 2002 by two visionary and successful entrepreneurs, Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, and Craig Mathews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies. The “1% for the Planet” movement has grown into a global operation involving more than 1200 member companies in 48 countries, all donating at least 1% of annual sales to sustainability initiatives. Since it started, the movement has raised more than $100 million, giving back to environmental causes. As Ken explains, “we have a proud 45 year history as a sweeping company and we have been doing other pavement services for the past 28 years. We are on a new journey of environmental history as the only sweeping and asphalt pavement services company to belong to the ‘1% for the Planet’ movement.” “We are not just your ordinary full-service pavement contractor,” says Ken, continuing “each of our services is performed with the greater environment in mind.”

Sweeping as an Environmental Best Management Practice
“Coast has its roots in the sweeping and pavement businesses, of course, but most clients only think of sweeping as an unwanted necessity that is required in order to rid their properties of unsightly trash and debris. What they normally don’t realize is how important sweeping is to producing invisible benefits, by preventing pollutants such as sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria, oil/grease, trash, pesticides and metals from being swiftly carried into our local streams, lakes, wetlands, and rivers.” “We approach our paving division in the same mindful, eco-sensitive way” Ken tells us. “Our paving crews use only environmentally sound products and practices with an emphasis on long lasting repairs and construction. Our pavement preservation department helps extend the life of our clients’ asphalt. Our new storm water services and construction department helps our clients deal with any clean water regulation currently in place and helps them maintain their systems for the coming environmental changes.”
Companies such as Curbco Companies and Coast Pavement Services are examples of sweeping companies that have successfully diversified to become truly full-service sweeping/paving/property management companies that started with a vision and, through hard work and determination, have come close to achieving their dreams—but there is always more to accomplish to show how huge one can dream in the power sweeping industry.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion