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It's A Funny Business


When the Chips Were Down

by Mick Vinckier

I recently found a reason to use my sweeper in an entirely different way than ever before.

Not long ago, lightning struck a good-sized tree in front of my house. My insurance company arranged for a company to come out and cut the wood up and load it onto a truck. After it was all loaded, my neighbor and I sat out on my porch and had a beer while we watched one of the people on the crew operate a one-man stump grinder. Using the machine, he ground the stump down below ground level about 6 inches. Then, his final task was to try and clean up the mess he'd made.

He started raking on the wood chips, and you could tell right away it wasn't a very effective method, to say the least. He had a circle of stump chips to deal with that was 8 or 9 feet wide and probably 10 inches deep. To make matters worse, my front lawn, where the tree was, is situated on a hump that's about 3 feet higher than the driveway. It was at about that point my eyes hit upon my sweeper, a 1999 Schwarze 348-LE, which was sitting in the driveway waiting to go to work. I thought to myself "Hey, give me a shot at that!" and I told the guy to hold on for a minute.

I cranked up the LE sweeper and made 3 passes over my front lawn; one from the street, one from my driveway and one from the neighbor's driveway. That sweeper sucked up every scrap of the wood chips. To my surprise the sweeper even got all of the chips out of the hole, too. I admit my wife did get a little nervous when I got the front wheel up against the porch, though fortunately no harm was done.

My only regret was that I didn't have a video of it. We drew quite a crowd in the neighborhood. I had the beacon flashing, and I'd say about three fourths of the neighborhood came out to watch. Instead of having to deal with leftover wood chips on the lawn, it's now completely cleaned up and we now have a new tree planted there.

Mick Vinckier has been in the parking lot maintenance business since 1988, and calls his company, Mikton Sweeping, a "CSA," which stands for 'contractor support agency.' That's in recognition that his company's real mission is to provide pavement-based support services to about 40 general contractors in the Omaha area. Mick has also taught a number of workshops at pavement shows on the topics of striping and joint sealing.

During our conversation, Mick stressed how important he feels it is for contractors to attend the industry trade and learning shows, like National Pavement Exposition, the APWA Conference and Schwarze Industries' Sweeper Roundup. "My warehouse is filled with equipment that makes me money," he said, "and most all of it I initially bought at one of the trade shows. My first airless striper, my first Schwarze sweeper, my first infrared machine I bought them all at the show. No one has to tell me about the value of going to trade shows. When you learn how to do what needs to be done, and how to do it right, the only problem is keeping up with the demand for your services. I would characterize my business as very successful, and the success all started because I went to the National Pavement Exposition 6 or 7 years ago when it was in Tampa. I learned so much, and saw so much new equipment that I hadn't heard of previously, and that's when my company really took off. I encourage all the sweeping contractors who are reading this to attend the shows, and get really educated about what you can do with your business. That's one of the surest roads to success you can find."

This article is reprinted from American Sweeper magazine, Volume 8 Number 1, 2000.

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