Brett Leconte, a manager at a Scarborough landscaping company, spent months this year training two new stonemasons. As winter approached, he worried about losing them since landscaping and construction companies often reduce their payroll during winter.

The solution: He persuaded his bosses at GCK2 Landscapes to keep the workers employed all winter by erecting movable tents made with scaffolding, plastic sheeting and PVC electrical conduits that allow them to work outdoors in any kind of weather.

“It’s more or less to keep the ball rolling so we don’t lose the guys in winter,” Leconte said. “If I am going to take the time to train these guys all summer long, we have to make sure they are going to be here next summer.”

Leconte and a crew of three stonemasons are building a 140-foot stone wall in Gorham this winter. Their semi-opaque tent absorbs sunlight like a greenhouse and is heated by a portable diesel heater. The tent warms the crew and also keeps the mortar warm so it can set properly.

As they complete one section of the wall under their 30-foot tent, the stonemasons pull up the frame and move it along to the next section.

Working in the tent is less efficient than working exposed in the great outdoors, and the money spent on heating cuts into profit margins. Those costs can’t be passed on to customers, said David Kane, a co-owner of the company.


But profits at this time of year aren’t the goal. The objective is to maintain the company’s infrastructure, he said.

Plus the heated tent gives him an extra sales tool: He can tell customers the job will be completed before the growing season begins.

“Come spring, we’re ready to do plantings and move into the next phase of the (landscaping) job,” he said. “In the summertime, boom. The plants show up and the job is completed.”

To keep others in the company busy through winter, Kane keeps them on the payroll while they volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, working on things like weatherizing houses for low-income families.

GCK2 Landscapes workers also plow snow, the conventional offseason job in the landscaping industry.

The challenges of keeping a year-round staff arose after a series of mergers. Kane was the owner of K2 Landscape Design & Construction, which merged last year with Greencare, a landscaping company run by two brothers, Paul and Alex Beaver.


The two companies still do business under their old company names but now operate as two divisions of one firm.

GCK2 Landscapes also bought a maintenance company: Lawn Enforcement Inc., and then Greater Portland Tree Co. The maintenance company was assimilated into the new merged company while the tree company maintains its operations under its current name.

GCK2 Landscapes this year made $1.5 million in sales, and next year projects sales of $2.5 million, Kane said.

The landscaping business is sensitive to the ups and downs of the economy because people cut back on lawn care and outdoor projects when they worry about losing their jobs. Kane said he and his partners cut staff during the Great Recession so their companies could survive.

Now that the economy has as rebounded, they want to take advantage of the opportunities, he said.

In other parts of the country, landscaping companies are corporations with large, year-round staffs, while in Maine they are typically small, family-run companies and sole proprietors that work seasonally.


Kane said the merger allows for greater efficiencies, such as reducing duplicate office functions. The larger workforce gives the company greater flexibility to bid on bigger jobs.

The efficiencies also mean the company can remain competitive on pricing while offering workers year-round jobs and better benefits, such as a dental plan and health insurance, he said.

“We want our guys taken care of, just like at Idexx,” he said.


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