One of the region's leading dealers in high quality grass machinery is moving to bespoke new premises in Cramlington, Northumberland after 36 years in Choppington.
Greenlay was founded by current chairman David Lowes back in 1971 and since that time the successful family business has grown significantly. This has led to a major expansion project and new premises at Nelson Park West.
David Lowes said: "The building design process started with management visiting other dealerships to see which designs were successful. We took these ideas to our builder and produced a set of drawings.
"After this process we gave the drawings to our staff and asked for their input. This was very important and resulted in the plans being revised. Some of our staff have been with the company for decades and their experience is crucial to the running of the business."
Greenlay covers a large geographical area stretching from County Durham to North Northumberland and provides sales, service and support to organisations in the Groundcare industry, as well as supplying the domestic user with high quality products. The company is one of the longest-serving John Deere Commercial and Consumer Equipment dealers in the UK.
Managing director Geoff Lowes said: "Our customers include golf clubs, local authorities, sporting clubs, contractors and homeowners.
"These customers require high levels of service and this investment reaffirms our commitment to these customers.
"The company will be relocated to the new site from Monday and we are looking forward to welcoming customers to our new showroom where we will be displaying a large range of both walk-behind and ride-on machinery as well as our range of John Deere branded merchandise.
"The new showroom display will include the latest John Deere 2007 models as well as other top brands."
The company is proud of its long association with John Deere and the expansion project is not only about moving premises.
As Geoff Lowes points out: "This project has meant reviewing all of our current operations and coming up with a plan which will allow us to manage the growth of the company without compromising levels of service.
"We are building for the future and see this relocation project as phase one of our plan. We intend to continue investing in our existing workforce as they are the key to our success. We will also be employing new staff as well as investing in our IT systems and internet presence."
The company has raised its profile on the internet by redesigning its website - www.greenlay.co.uk.
It includes a shop where customers can buy John Deere branded merchandise such as toys, clothing, watches and other products.
This facility allows customers to browse the product range in the comfort of their own home and includes links to manufacturers' websites as well as a facility for contacting Greenlay via email.
The future looks bright for Greenlay. The company has succeeded in delivering David Lowes's vision of leading the way in the provision of horticultural machinery.
David said: "We like to think that we have set a benchmark in this industry. This has been achieved by listening to our customers and putting them top of our list of priorities. As long as we continue with this philosophy we will have a strong company for many years to come."
Page 2: Close House tees up for future
Close House tees up for future
One of Greenlay's many clients is Close House Golf and Country Club at Heddon-on-the-Wall, near Newcastle - the first UK golf club to buy John Deere's 2500E hybrid greens mowers.
Close House was bought in 2003 from the University of Newcastle by ex-graduate Graham Wylie, co-founder of the Sage computer software business.
The existing 18-hole golf course, which in the past was exclusively used by the university staff and students but is now open to all, is undergoing a major redesign and extension.
Steve Cram, estates manager at Close House, is excited by the challenge of helping to create a brand new championship standard 18-hole golf course from scratch, in this picturesque Tyne Valley setting.
He said: "It's great to be involved right from day one. The terrain is mostly quite flat, but there are already plenty of water features and bunkers, and we feel we can turn this into a very challenging, US-style course."
In the meantime, Close House is fully open for play, and the staff are kept very busy maintaining the estate, which also includes a number of football and rugby pitches that will continue to be used by the university.
When it came to choosing his grounds maintenance equipment, Steve made a point of comparing the different makes on the market, but was ultimately swayed by the dealer support he knew was available from Greenlay, from his time as head greenkeeper at Slaley Hall in Northumberland. where he also used John Deere equipment.The majority of machines that are available can be quite similar, so dealer service and back-up are crucially important, he said. You need to be happy about what and who youre working with, and it makes life a lot easier when you know what to expect. Greenlay and John Deere know their equipment, what its capable of and how it will benefit the course, and this makes a big difference.
Page 3: David makes mark on Deere's history
David makes mark on Deere's history
John Deere, the blacksmith who founded Deere Company, secured his place in history with the invention of a self-scouring steel plough that helped open up the American Mid-West prairies to agriculture in the early part of the 19th Century.
David Lowes, the founder of John Deere dealership Greenlay Ltd of Choppington in Northumberland, made his own mark on the company's history, by effectively pioneering the use of John Deere diesel engined lawn tractors for commercial mowing in the UK.
David was recently presented with a special long service award by John Deere Limited managing director Alec McKee, to mark more than 30 years as a John Deere groundscare dealer - the longest established in the country.
David started selling John Deere lawn and garden equipment in 1972, nearly 15 years before the UK company set up its own groundscare division in 1986.
Deere & Company's first lawn and garden tractor was the 7hp 110, which started production at the Horicon Works in Wisconsin in 1963 - so the story goes, because the company wanted a machine to mow the lawns in front of the worldwide headquarters in Moline.
John Deere Limited was established at Langar, near Nottingham, in 1966, but it would be many years before it sold anything but agricultural machinery.
The fledgling groundscare business therefore relied on other importers, initially Stanhay and a separate parts business in Suffolk, then in 1972 a new company in Surrey called Ground Control was set up to import, market and distribute the range.
When this business failed a couple of years later, John Deere brought all the equipment and parts back to Langar, and David Lowes acquired and sold it all.
From 1974 to 1986, when John Deere Limited's new groundscare division was formally established, David sourced (and often personally collected) his machines from France. David Lowes started as an apprentice motor mechanic after leaving school at 15, and then worked for a number of machinery businesses before setting up Greenlay with his wife Judith, who died this year, in 1972.
He sold his first lawn tractor, a 14hp 140 hydrostatic model bought from Stanhay, to Stanhope & Weardale Co-op, for cutting grass around local caravan parks.
"When I started my own machinery business, most of the major makes were tied up, so I had to look elsewhere," said David.
"I saw a John Deere 140 somewhere, pestered Stanhay to give me one, and demonstrated it wherever I could. It was slow to start with, and I was very surprised with the way the business then took off.
"The 100 and later 400 Series tractors were beautifully built on a heavy chassis, and it was amazing how they stood up to abuse. I just felt they were perfect for the local authority market - it had to be better for an operator to be sitting on a machine capable of cutting up to 60in wide, rather than a pedestrian mower with only a 30 in cut.
"The safety features built as standard on these machines were also a great benefit - local authorities in this part of the country seemed to be more aware of safety than other areas of the UK, and features such as colour coded controls, deck height adjustment from the operator's seat and the engine cut-off were a big selling point."
One of David's major contributions was in the introduction of diesel engines and rear grass discharge, when petrol and side discharge were the order of the day in America.
"I went on a John Deere dealer trip to the USA in 1979, but I was the only one selling groundscare equipment. I saw all these small diesel engined agricultural machines, and was quite disappointed I couldn't get something similar for sale to groundscare customers in the UK.
"I just knew there was a market, and that the overall product was right, so I decided to start making my own conversions, using diesel engines from Lombardini."
Among the first local authority users in the UK were Washington Development Corporation, the City of Newcastle, Durham City Council, Jarrow Corporation, Sunderland and Gateshead, the majority of which are still using John Deere fleets today.
Through David Lowes initial groundbreaking efforts, the John Deere Limited groundscare division was finally set up in 1986 with current managing director Alec McKee as commercial manager, and Greenlay Ltd the first UK dealer appointment.
"John Deere had a lot of product to choose from at that stage," said David. "Because of the difference in scale, a lot of American equipment, while it was admittedly bought for domestic use, was actually being used on anything up to 10 acres.
"We just needed to transfer the existing technology to our UK experience and requirements, and that meant diesel engines and rear discharge mowers."
The first commercial machines included the 55 Series compact tractors, featuring the popular 855 model with wrap-around cylinder mower, the F Series front rotary mowers, and the 430 lawn tractor. This was the first produced by Horicon with a 20hp three-cylinder diesel engine - directly influenced by David Lowes.
Greenlay now employs 20 people in sales, service and parts, and has a substantial turnover. The bulk of the company's business is still done with local authorities throughout the North-East, but an increasing number of machines are now being sold to golf clubs, particularly fairway and greens mowers.
After-sales manager Eric Pattinson is also a Lantra qualified training provider offering an operator training service to customers.
"We've always put service support and customer relations as the highest priorities, our whole business was built on this. Our staff are very important to us too - just as I could never have got where I am without the help of my wife Judith, the business relies very heavily on the people we employ.
"Our top priority is, we always listen to what the customer has to say, and we have to try to deliver what they want. I'd like to think we've set a benchmark for service in the area."
Page 4: Council deals worth £250,000
Council deals worth £250,000
John Deere commercial and consumer equipment dealer Greenlay Ltd of Choppington, Northumberland has sold more than 100 mowers worth almost £250,000 in two fleet deals with local councils in the North-East.
Gateshead and Sunderland City Councils have invested in the new machines as part of their ongoing replacement policies, with higher specifications and lower vibration levels being key requirements.
Gateshead Council has bought 60 C43 commercial walk-behind mowers to replace other makes, plus six 220B walk-behind greens mowers, five 3320 30hp compact tractors (two equipped with front loaders), and four 1545 31hp front rotary mowers.
The council currently has around 65 John Deere ride-on mowers in its fleet, in addition to several Gator utility vehicles.
The 5.5hp C43 rear discharge mowers feature an aluminium deck with a 43cm (17in) cutting width, and can collect or drop the grass as required.
"We couldn't collect with our previous walk-behind mowers, so we had a CV43 on demonstration and liked it a lot," said workshop foreman Fred Thomson. "There's more demand for collecting the grass in some of the city's more prestige areas, to leave a cleaner finish. We also get a better finish from the 220B greens mowers, which are used the cut the parks' bowling greens."
Workshop manager Frank Carr added: "We've never had a problem with John Deere or Greenlay, their back-up and parts system has always been there for us. We've been more than happy with the service and support we've had from the dealer and the company over the years we've been buying their equipment."
Sunderland City Council has bought 12 R43VO rear collect walk-behind mowers and 12 C52VK commercial rear discharge walk-behind mowers, following 10 of each bought in 2005.
The council has also acquired three new X748 24hp 4WD diesel lawn tractors and a John Deere 900 27hp ride-on triple cylinder mower, with additional compact tractor models to come.
The variable speed R43VO mower features a 5.5hp engine and a 43cm (17in) aluminium cutting deck, while the new C52VK commercial walk-behind has been upgraded to meet all 2006 noise and vibration regulations.
This 52cm (21in) mower boasts a new 6.5hp OHV engine, in addition to John Deere's variable speed transmission and TurboStar collection system.
All-round durability for commercial applications is enhanced by the steel-reinforced aluminium deck, steel wheels, hardened TurboJet blade and reinforced 75 litre grass bag.
"We are gradually replacing our older generation walk-behinds to meet the latest vibration regulations, as some of the previous makes could only be used for about three hours a day," said transport manager Len Harfield.
"John Deere's models came out best on trial, and meet our everyday requirements for use across the city. We now have around 70 rotary walk-behinds in the fleet, which we use in cemeteries and other small areas where the bigger mowers just can't go, especially round trees and shrubs.
"The main thing I like about John Deere machines is that they're reliable - apart from the odd blade and cable you hardly ever see them in the workshop.
"The dealer service is reliable too, and Greenlay also provides full training for our operators and workshop staff on all new machines on delivery, to ensure we get the best from the equipment."