Green Media announces Most Influential People

Green Media, a division of M2MEDIA360 — publisher of Outdoor Power Equipment, Landscape and Irrigation, Arbor Age and SportsTurf — is proud to announce the 2010 selections for “Most Influential People in the Green Industry.”

Green Media’s “Most Influential People in the Green Industry” were nominated by their peers for their ongoing contributions to the Green Industry. Nominations were reviewed by Green Media’s in-house panel, and the 2010 selections for “Most Influential People” were chosen from throughout the Green Industry.

The 20 professionals selected for this honor exemplify commitment to the Green Industry, and have exhibited a widespread influence on their peers. Green Media congratulates all of those chosen for this year’s list of “Most Influential People in the Green Industry.”

Following are in-depth profiles of the five honorees, arranged in alphabetical order by last name, for their contributions to the outdoor power equipment market, followed by the remaining 15 honorees, listed in the same fashion, for their work in the landscape and irrigation, sports turf and arboriculture markets.

Art Evans

Art Evans, the founder and chairman of the board of Dixie Chopper, pioneered the development of the commercial zero-turn lawn mower.


Art Evans on his first-ever mower (#0001) after it was repaintedIn 1980, Evans built the first Dixie Chopper zero-turn mower in a barn on his parents’ property outside Fillmore, Ind., embarking on a journey that has changed the way Americans mow grass while helping make Dixie Chopper a household name as the manufacturer of “The World’s Fastest Lawn Mower.”

Evans and Dixie Chopper have become synonymous with innovation in the lawn-mowing industry. The trademark stainless-steel design was introduced in 1986 along with the advanced “Quad Loop” hydraulic drive system. The patented Operator-Controlled Discharge Chute (OCDC) debuted in 1996.

Dixie Chopper was also the first company to include a tachometer on its mowers and to offer lifetime warranties on frames, steering levers and other components.

Leading the “more horsepower” revolution, Evans and Dixie Chopper introduced the twin-engine mower in 1996 with two 20-horsepower (hp.) engines combining for a 40-hp. output and paving the way for present models featuring 30- to 40-hp. engines. To prove the durability of his mowers, despite the increased horsepower, Evans later attached a 150-hp. Chinook helicopter engine to a production unit frame and hydraulic system to create the Jet Mower and earn a spot in pop culture lore with an appearance on the TV series “Home Improvement.”

Firm in his belief that dirt and heat are the enemies of engines and equipment, Evans equipped his mowers with advanced air and oil cleaners in the mid-1980s — years before they became standard on competitors’ products.

After winning the 2005 Indiana Entrepreneur of the Year award and finishing in the top three nationally in the annual Ernst & Young-sponsored contest, Evans didn’t rest on his laurels in 2006. Instead, he created the first Iiquefied-propane (LP) gas-powered mower that uses an engine dedicated to propane and not a conversion kit. The ingenuity didn’t quit there. When someone joked that it was too bad you couldn’t hook the propane tanks to a grill and make lunch, Evans did just that, mounting a gas barbecue grill to the back of an LP mower that cooked hamburgers as it mowed the grass.

In 2009, Dixie Chopper became the first mower manufacturer to offer units with four separate fuel sources (gasoline, diesel, LP and compressed natural gas) when it created and built the industry’s first dedicated compressed natural gas lawn mower, The Eco-Eagle. And Evans continues to innovate, introducing the industry’s first four-wheel-drive zero-turn commercial mower, known as “The Dominator,” at GIE+EXPO 2010.

Dixie Chopper celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2010 and remains a rarity in this industry — family owned and operated, producing a product that is made and assembled in the United States.

OPE: You were nominated by your peers as one of the “Most Influential People in the Green Industry.” How do you feel that you influence other industry professionals?

AE: Honestly, I was simply stunned by this nomination. I think our track record at Dixie Chopper has been one of constant innovation ever since we built our first zero-turn mower in April 1980. Many of our innovations and upgrades have been copied in the industry, and like they say, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” So I guess I am flattered, as well as stunned to be included on this list.

OPE: What do you feel has been your biggest contribution to the Green Industry so far? And what do you see as your role in the future of the industry?

AE: Truth be told, I could be the reason the industry has all the choices of zero-turn mowers it has today. I think we forced the engine manufacturers to put decent filters on their engines for one thing. And with our vision of building a mower that doesn’t break when you use it and remains a solid, productive unit long past the time it’s paid for, has raised the bar in the industry from a throwaway mentality to producing a piece of equipment that has a reasonable life expectancy.

As to the second part of the question, I think Dixie Chopper’s new four-wheel-drive zero-turn mower, The Dominator, could be a game changer for the future of mowing and mowing equipment.

OPE: Who has influenced you both personally and professionally?

AE: Professionally, I would have to say that Stan Morton of Track Vac — who happens to be a stockholder in Magic Circle Corporation (the parent company of Dixie Chopper) — influenced me the most professionally. He got me started building better and more productive zero-turn mowers.

Personally, it would have to be my father (Philip Evans, a lifelong Indiana farmer on whose property the Dixie Chopper manufacturing plant and national headquarters was built) who was my biggest influence.

OPE: Tell us something about yourself outside of work (hobby, sport or other personal interest) that influences your approach in your professional career.

AE: Outside of work, it has to be my passion for aviation and the discipline it takes to operate safely in that realm. There’s something about being down to earth and having your feet on the ground, yet having your head in the clouds that’s inspiring.

OPE: What dreams do you have for the industry? What change(s) are necessary to make those dreams a reality?

AE: A little less competition would be nice (he laughs). Right now, I think we’ve got too many players for it to be a good thing. But it’s a free country…or at least it used to be.

OPE: What advice do you have for Green Industry professionals who want to become influential leaders themselves?

AE: First off, you have to have absolutely bullhead determination to succeed. And don’t ever take your eye off the ball. Overall, I subscribe to 7 basic business principles that have been the backbone of our success at Dixie Chopper. They are:

Treat people the way you want to be treated.
Set your standards higher than anyone else’s.
Don’t forget where you came from.
Be honest with the public. They are your customers.
Stand behind your product, even if it gets into your pocketbook.
It’s how you deal with your customers that sets you apart.
Listen to the customer. He usually will tell you what you need to know.

OPE: If you could nominate another person as the Green Industry’s most influential, who would that be, and why?

AE: That would have to be Dane Scag. He has done more with less than anybody I have ever known. He’d start up one company and sell it, start another company and sell it… I think he’s created most of our competition.

Ed Nelson


In his spare time, Ed Nelson, left, loves to go boating off the coast of Georgia.Ed Nelson is the president & CEO of Rotary Corporation, which has its world headquarters located in Glennville, Ga.

The Nelson family is a legacy in the outdoor power equipment industry, beginning with Ed’s father, the late Bill Nelson, who transformed the upstart company from a small garage in Reidsville, Ga., to the world’s largest supplier of aftermarket parts for the outdoor power equipment industry. Under Ed’s leadership, Rotary now has more than 450 employees who proudly serve customers in all 50 states and 68 countries throughout Europe, Asia, South America, Canada, Australia and Africa. Altogether, the company supplies more than 8,500 different parts, tools and accessories for outdoor power equipment. A longtime leader in blade manufacturing, Rotary produces more than 8 million austempered mower and edger blades every year at its state-of-the-art plant. In 2010, Rotary’s blade manufacturing division produced its 178-millionth blade.

Ed’s extensive knowledge of the industry is complemented by his genuine, down-home personality. His company is family-owned and operated with the third generation of the Nelson family now involved in daily operations. Ed’s commitment to servicing dealers and the industry he loves is unwavering. Just as important, Rotary supports numerous worthwhile causes and charitable organizations in and around its world headquarters in Glennville, Ga. Ed is not only recognized as a leader in his profession, but he is revered by people throughout Tattnall County, Ga., for being “just a good guy,” who is known for his broad smile, firm handshake and love for his fellow man.

OPE: You were nominated by your peers as one of the “Most Influential People in the Green Industry.” How do you feel that you influence other industry professionals?

EN: First, let me say I am humbled by this honor, and I am truly grateful to many people throughout our industry who have made a positive impact on my career. As far as influencing other industry professionals, I believe that for the past 33 years the Green Industry has been a larger influence on me than I have been on it.

But if there is just one area that I hope to influence other industry professionals, it would be our employees at Rotary Corporation. My father taught me to always respect the people who work with you. That’s why I feel it is so important to treat my employees as I would expect to be treated, so I don’t ask them to do anything that I would not do myself.

Rotary is very fortunate to have a number of employees who have worked here for over 30 years. We also have employees who have made it a “family tradition,” as parents, their children and even their grandchildren have been part of Rotary.

To me, this indicates exceptional dedication and loyalty to our company. But more importantly, it underscores the commitment we all share to deliver our very best to customers. This begins and ends with honesty, integrity, and trying to do all we can each and every day for servicing dealers.

OPE: What do you feel has been your biggest contribution to the Green Industry so far? And what do you see as your role in the future of the industry?

EN: I was honored to serve as president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Aftermarket Association (OPEAA) and proud to have the opportunity to meet many outstanding individuals who have made a difference for our industry. Promoting aftermarket parts is the goal of OPEAA, and that is certainly my passion too.

As for the future, I will continue to be a strong advocate of aftermarket parts for our industry — and Rotary as a viable source for those parts!

OPE: Who has influenced you both personally and professionally?

EN: The person who influenced me the most was my father, Bill Nelson. Although he earned an accounting degree from the University of Georgia, he was a natural-born salesman.

My dad purchased Rotary from his uncle, J.D. Harvey, in 1966. Through hard work and determination, he grew the business year after year. He truly cared about his employees and, today, you can still see his effect on our employees and the company he built.

When I left for college, I wasn’t sure about which career I would pursue. Eventually, I took some time off from school and came to work at Rotary with my dad. That’s when I realized this was the place for me, and I’ve been here ever since.

OPE: Tell us something about yourself outside of work (hobby, sport or other personal interest) that influences your approach in your professional career.

EN: I played on my high school football team. One year, we had a perfect season, except it was a perfect season of losing games. We finished with zero wins and 10 losses. That’s when I realized that losing is not fun. Hall of Fame Coach Vince Lombardi once commented that his team never lost a game but, sometimes, they simply ran out of time. I wished he had been our coach. I think that maybe being part of that team helped me look at business a little differently. Good communication and setting goals are so important, whether it’s football or business.

OPE: What dreams do you have for the industry? What change(s) are necessary to make those dreams a reality?

EN: I would like to see our industry continue to grow, which will provide more jobs in our country and more opportunities for future generations. To make these dreams a reality, we must continue to introduce new and improved products that will lead to increased sales and long-term success for our industry.

The Green Industry is often overlooked for its many contributions to our world’s economy. We must continue to promote our industry and tell our story, both in the U.S. and abroad. The industry’s multi-billion dollar economic impact is felt around the globe.

OPE: What advice do you have for Green Industry professionals who want to become influential leaders themselves?

EN: My advice would be to not deviate from what got you to where you are. I think it’s also important to delegate responsibility to your staff. If there’s a mistake, it becomes a learning experience and you move on.

Also, I feel it is always important to be a good listener at all times. By hearing others and seeing the big picture, you can effectively meet challenges and take advantage of many opportunities that may otherwise pass you by.

OPE: If you could nominate another person as the Green Industry’s most influential, who would that be and why?

EN: When you are quoted in the Wall Street Journal and other national publications about the state of the Green Industry, I believe that would qualify you as most influential.

To me, that person is Kris Kiser, executive vice president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). Kris is very knowledgeable on so many topics affecting the Green Industry. I have heard him speak on several occasions at association meetings. He always brings a good message, and he would definitely be my choice.

Dane Scag


Dane Scag is an aviation enthusiast, having flown his own plane — including this Duke by Beechcraft — for more than 65 years. 


Taking a Great Dane Chariot for a test drive, Dane has always endeared himself to research and development, which is why he put this fenced-in lab immediately next to the office. (All Dane Scag photos by Don Rutt,, Twin & Turbine, Vol. 5, No.1) Dane Scag graduated with a master’s degree in nuclear physics from the University of Illinois and spent years in the nuclear power field, including designing high-energy 25-million-volt X-ray machines used by the U.S. military. This same X-ray technology eventually became useful in treating deep-seated cancer.

Dane was VP of General Electric Nuclear and Allis Chalmers Nuclear before deciding that corporate life was not for him. Dane purchased Wisconsin Marine, Inc., and shortly thereafter, designed the Bob-Cat snow thrower and patented its unique 2-stage technology. Dane followed the snow thrower in 1974 with the first commercial, self-propelled, belt-drive lawn mower and subsequently the complete line of Bob-Cat commercial mowers. Dane is the founder and former owner of both Scag Power Equipment, Inc. and Great Dane Power Equipment, Inc. He developed some of the most innovative commercial mowing equipment, including the Scag SWZ dual-hydro walk-behind mower and the highly successful Great Dane Surfer stand-on mower. In his own research and development labs and in conjunction with several component manufacturers, Dane also initiated numerous design improvements that not only improved his products, but also served to improve all segments of commercial mowing equipment. Dane listened to end users, and developed innovative and productive equipment to help them get their jobs done faster and with less effort.

Dianne White, editor of Twin & Turbine magazine, wrote an excellent article titled “Flying Through the Decades with Owner-Pilot Dane Scag” in the March 2001 issue. In a sidebar titled “How to Build a Better Mower — A Lesson in R&D,” White captured the essence of Dane in the following paragraph: “Many people ask him why he traded a career as a nuclear physicist to design commercial mowers. He has a ready answer. ‘Regardless of whether you are building a thermo-nuclear reactor or a mower, the scientific challenge and problem-solving process is the same. Mowers are perceived as a dull product, but the challenge is equally formidable. We’ve seen a lot of innovation in digital and computer technology, but we haven’t applied the same innovation to some of our society’s basic equipment such as lawn mowers. However, I see the tide beginning to turn in the other direction. There is tremendous opportunity for growth and advancement.’”

Dane is an aviation enthusiast, has flown his own plane for more than 65 years, and served as president of the Duke Flyers Club. Dane loves flying and is as much at home at 25,000 feet as in his research and development lab.

“Dane has the unique ability to listen to end users and design products that address their needs,” said Rick Cuddihe, CLP, president, Lafayette Consulting Company, and long-time friend and business associate of Dane Scag. “He’s the most honorable and interesting man I’ve ever known, and it has been a pleasure working with him throughout the years.”  

OPE: You were nominated by your peers as one of the “Most Influential People in the Green Industry.” How do you feel that you influence other industry professionals?

DS: Throughout my career in the Green Industry, I have always focused on being in the field and listening to the needs of the lawn care professionals. Whenever a need is identified, I try to develop a solution for that need. This method has proven successful many times throughout my career — Bob-Cat, Scag, Snapper and Great Dane.

OPE: What do you feel has been your biggest contribution to the Green Industry so far? And what do you see as your role in the future of the industry?


1970s — Development of the Bob-Cat commercial snowthrower. Living in Wisconsin, we needed a snowthrower that would throw snow in both directions and not clog. I used the first one for over 30 years. I also designed and introduced the Bob-Cat Jaguar zero-turn rider that significantly increased end-user productivity and maneuverability.
1980s — Designed and introduced the Scag STZ mid-mount zero-turn rider.
1980-90 — Designed and introduced the Scag SWZ dual hydro walk-behind “what a revolutionary machine.”
1990-2000 — Designed and introduced the Great Dane Surfer stand-on commercial mower — “productivity, versatility, maneuverability taken to the next level.”

While I’m retired and enjoy traveling, I just might have an idea that — brought to fruition — could have an impact on the industry.

OPE: Who has influenced you both personally and professionally?

DS: I have been blessed to meet so many wonderful individuals throughout my career — several of whom I have developed substantial relationships. All of these people and relationships — personal and professional — have influenced me. It has always been the people and the relationships that have motivated me to strive for excellence.

OPE: Tell us something about yourself outside of work (hobby, sport or other personal interest) that influences your approach in your professional career.

DS: In my prior life (I entered the Green Industry after my first retirement), I was a nuclear engineer and scientist. The scientific approach, the need for innovation, and the mindset that there is a better way or a solution stayed with me as I embarked on my Green Industry career.

Another substantial influence has been the time of solitude when flying my Beechcraft Duke. While in the air (I have flown a plane since WWII), I am afforded the opportunity to relax and ponder various solutions to issues. Some of my best product ideas have occurred while flying.

OPE: What dreams do you have for the industry? What change(s) are necessary to make those dreams a reality?

DS: I envision an industry wherein products are not reliant upon fossil fuels and are more friendly to the overall environment. I know many companies are working to improve performance and develop enviro-friendly equipment. I think for this dream to really take hold, one of the engine manufacturers will have to develop an adequately sized and powered engine utilizing steam or solar/steam as the fuel source.

OPE: What advice do you have for Green Industry professionals who want to become influential leaders themselves?

DS: There are four crucial steps to any success for a leader, regardless of the industry.

Listen — Don’t assume you know what the user (customer) needs. Actually, listen to what the customer is saying and understand what the need is and why it is needed.
Take Notes — Taking notes aids in listening and helps ensure you don’t miss a critical item later during the solution process.
Care — Treat people with respect and genuine care. For anyone to be a good leader, they have to give respect and a sincere desire to want to help. This attitude brings people together and forms a powerful relationship. People don’t care what you know until they know you care.
Action — Listening, understanding and concern are a vital foundation, but it is meaningless if you don’t take action. Taking action undoubtedly will lead to mistakes, but taking action is the only way you will affect a positive change. The world is always moving. If you are not moving with it, you are standing still and getting passed by.

OPE: If you could nominate another person as the Green Industry’s most influential, who would that be, and why?

DS: There are so many great individuals that have had a positive influence on this industry — safety, marketing, product development, etc. Instead of a single person, I would nominate an often overlooked group, which is the group of lawn care professionals that make up our industry. In the early days, most of the professionals started as a “one- or two-man show.” Today, many have developed into expert businessmen. If you think of the number of individuals and families that have been supported because of the work and dedication of the “one-man crew” that became a lawn care professional businessman, you simply cannot quantify the amount of influence that person represents.

Jim Starmer


FOUR GENERATIONS: Pictured from right to left are Jim Starmer with his mother Grace, granddaughter Anna and son David (Anna’s father).Jim Starmer, executive vice president of Dixie Sales Company, Inc. (DSC), Greensboro, N.C., has been a leader in the outdoor power equipment industry for the past 41 years. Following in the footsteps of both his grandfather Leander H. (Jack) Starmer, who co-founded DSC as an automotive parts and service business in 1914, and his father Ernest Starmer, who worked at DSC for nearly 60 years, Jim became the third generation of his family to join DSC in 1969. Due to changes that occurred in the automotive parts industry in the early 1970s, Jim and his father decided to shift DSC’s focus toward building the lawn and garden parts side of the business, while maintaining the automotive service business and de-emphasizing the automotive parts sales. It turned out to be a very wise move. Jim took the lead from his father in what became known as the outdoor power equipment parts and service side of the business and grew it so successfully that DSC sold off the automotive parts and service business in January 1993 to further focus on the continuing rapid growth of the OPE parts and accessory business. By the mid-1990s, DSC became one of the largest OPE distributors in the United States by consistently setting the industry standard for exceptional customer service, forcing its competitors to either follow its lead or be left behind. As a result, dealers and service centers across the country received better customer service. Nearing its 100-year anniversary, DSC continues to thrive due to its excellent customer service and has extended its reach with distribution centers in Greensboro, N.C.; Memphis, Tenn., and Toronto. DSC is the largest distributor of outdoor power equipment, parts and accessories for MTD Products and Husqvarna Outdoor Products.

In addition to helping shape the OPE industry by raising the bar on customer service, Jim has voluntarily helped to shape the industry in many other ways. He served as an officer and board member for the Engine Service Association (ESA) and continued to serve his fellow distributors once the ESA merged with the Outdoor Power Equipment Distributors Association (OPEDA) to form the Outdoor Power Equipment and Engine Service Association (OPEESA) by establishing OPEESA’s OPE-in-the-Know e-newsletter, recently producing his 154th edition. Jim was one of the founders of the Equipment and Engine Training Council (EETC), served on its board for three years, and graciously served as host of the EETC’s 2010 annual conference. He has also served on numerous OEM distributor advisory councils.

[On a personal note, as the editor of Outdoor Power Equipment magazine, I cannot thank Jim enough for his years of guidance and support as both a member of our Editorial Advisory Board and a contributing writer. He truly deserves this honor. — SN]


Dixie Sales Company invoice from April 1, 1915OPE: You were nominated by your peers as one of the “Most Influential People in the Green Industry.” How do you feel you influence other industry professionals?

JS: Dixie Sales Company will be 97 years old in 2011. I’ve been working here for the last 41 years, alongside my father for 31 of those years. Other than the number of years we’ve been in business, I think we’re representative of many distribution companies in this industry that have survived and thrived. The culture of success that was created within this company by its management and its employees over the years has resulted in a successful business model that other companies want to emulate. Our model is always under observation by others who know that Dixie Sales Company embraces change, is an innovator, a first mover, always pushing the envelope to the betterment of our customers and suppliers. They know that what Dixie Sales says is not as important as what we do in the marketplace. Our customers exp

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