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Maybe it's the work environment, but Kent-based Davey Tree Expert Co. keeps growing faster than a poplar tree.

This time, it's the Chicago area, where the company announced on Feb. 7 it has opened a new 20-person office in the suburb of Wheeling, about 20 miles northwest of the Windy City.

That includes "a handful" of new hires, said Davey spokeswoman Helen Thompson, who added that the office may make additional hires when seasonal work picks up in the spring.

The office is being run by district manager Tom Weidner, who's been with Davey since 1984.

But the move is just the latest for Davey, which is one of the nation's largest employee-owned companies — now with more than 9,000 employees. Davey has been following a strategy of buying existing tree-care companies in target markets, then expanding them with an increase in marketing and the products and services offered.

That includes Chicago, where in 2008 Davey purchased The Care of Trees, an Illinois company that had annual revenues of about $50 million at the time. Since then, Davey has expanded the operation, including moving into a larger regional headquarters in the region last year and now with its new office in Wheeling.

Last April, Davey acquired Pittsburgh-based Arborel Tree Service, as well as Atlanta-based Arborguard.

In 2016, it acquired Tennessee-based Jones Bros., a tree company with a strong presence in Southern states.

In addition to using acquisitions to achieve geographic expansion, Davey has also used them to expand its expertise. That happened in 2014, when it acquired Virginia-based Wetland Studies and Solutions Inc., which specializes in wetlands management and remediation.

The company has also made plans to grow in Kent, where last year it purchased the 170-acre Oak Knolls Golf Course to use for future expansion.

All of the growth has meant a lot more employees for the company as well. According to Davey's press releases, total employment at the company has gone from 8,000 employees at the end of 2016, to more than 9,000 today.

In September, the company said it was ranked the 13th largest employee-owned company in the U.S. by the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO).


As seen in Crain's Cleveland Business.