Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about your company and how you got started in the industry.
Owen: Reno Green has been around since 1975. We bought the business from the previous owner in January of 2004. He started the business and wanted to retire. I had two partners at the time. I came from the logistics industry, working for a family owned third-party company. I had been in logistics my whole life having grown up in the industry. I had two daughters at the time and was traveling a lot and I didn’t want to be an absentee dad. My business partner at the time, my brother and I got together and started looking at companies and ended up buying this one. We have about 105 employees.
NNBW: What are the duties of your position?
Owen: My brother and I bought out our other partner a few years ago, so it was just my brother and I and in 2013, my brother died suddenly and it ended up only being me. I’m president, I do a lot of estimating on installations and overall run the company.
NNBW: How did your brother’s death affect yourself and the company?
Owen: It was devastating. He was really a hands-on guy out in the field. Fortunately we have a lot of really great people and we were able to roll right along. My brother taught me a lot about the industry with me having come from the logistics industry.
NNBW: How does landscaping improve the value of a property?
Owen: On the commercial site such as an apartment complex that we helped to build, they want the front entry way done first. They want plants and landscaping in the property even if everything else is in plywood stage. I would guess it’s somewhere around 15 to 35 percent of the property value.
NNBW: How has the recent drought affected your business?
Owen: There are multiple things we’re dealing with when it comes to the drought. People are really conscious about their own turf. People come here from California and are scared of the drought and want to help. We have been pushing to xeriscape in the front yard. People who have turf and want to keep the turf, we’ve been getting involved in polymers in the turf that can save the water use. It holds its weight in water. We’ve also been doing a lot of retrofitting of sprinkler systems. Irrigation heads are night and day from what they used to be. There are heads out there now that can save 25 to 40 percent on the water. We have also been doing what we call ET clocks that adjust the time sprinklers go on and stay on depending on the temperature. They are getting better and better, too.
NNBW: What are some of the trends in landscaping?
Owen: Now the trends we’re seeing is boulders and dry creek beds. We’re seeing selected plantings that can bring different colors in the spring, summer and fall but with not nearly the water consumption. We’re also seeing drip systems have been getting super-efficient. There are so many more choices of plants that nurseries here keep in stock that can survive our climate.
NNBW: Any other challenges with the industry?
Owen: We often have a hard time finding skilled labor. And when you get that skilled labor it’s hard to have them stay and not go elsewhere. You have to provide incentives and try to control negativity because the employee knows there’s a lot of options. But there’s a real shortage of skilled workers.
NNBW: What advice would you give anyone who wants to get into the profession?
Owen: We tell kids to learn different aspects of the profession. You can learn to be irrigation technicians, or paver installers. You can go anywhere. You learn irrigation techniques, clock setting, which isn’t backbreaking work. So we’re working to get people interested in working in the industry. But it’s hard work. We don’t see many of the high school or college kids coming into the industry. Overall it’s a little bit of a sleeper industry. Here we do have some success stories of guys who work from the ground up and work their way through the ranks.
NNBW: What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Owen: You have tangible visual assurance that a job was well done. I like to take my daughters and say Reno Green did that and Reno Green did this. In this industry you get to see your accomplishments and I like to be outside.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Owen: We had a family logistics business growing up so my first job was unloading rail cars.
NNBW: What are your hobbies. How do you spend your spare time?
Owen: I like to chukkar hunt. I like to ride ATVs. No shortage of hobbies. It’s just finding the time to do them. If you like the outdoors, this place is impossible to beat.
NNBW: Favorite vacation spot?
Owen: We like to go to Scottsdale, Ariz. My wife and I met there in college and like to go back there. It’s our favorite spot. We love going down there.
NNBW: What event in your life has had the greatest impact on your life?
Owen: Having daughters really changed my life. I was a manager before and was pretty tough to work for. Very headstrong. Having daughters really swung the pendulum the other way to where you’re almost too soft. My brother dying was a huge event; dealing with the grief was a challenge and half. My wife stepped in and helped out. She’s been amazing.
NNBW: Last sporting event or concert?
Owen: I think the last one I went to was the Michael Martin Murphy concert at Boomtown.
NNBW: What did you dream of becoming as a kid?
Owen: I was hellbent on becoming a commercial airline pilot. I lived in Fallon and watched the F-14s train and got my pilot’s license when I was 16 and flew out in Air Force ROTC. I had a medical exam at the Air Force base and one eye was 20-40 vision. Because of the movie “Top Gun,” there was a mass of guys wanting to be pilots. You had to be in top shape to earn a spot.
NNBW: If you could retire right now, would you? Why or why not?
Owen: I wouldn’t fully retire. I would like to get into real estate development. I would definitely spend more time playing golf or traveling.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do like about living/working here?
Owen: I grew up in Reno and Fallon. I lived a lot of other places like Texas and Florida, which was great. I always encourage people to live different places. You appreciate your hometown more. I always knew I wanted to come back though. The quality of life is second-to-none here.