TimeCutter lawn mower

Isaiah was lamenting the fact that he’s unemployed -- and that can be a problem when you’re 11 years old and looking to make pocket money.

It seems that when Isaiah moved into our neighborhood, he was expecting that residents would employ him to cut their lawns as some did where he used to live. But little did he know that his youthful, spindly legs would be up against a Toro Landscape TimeCutter SS4225 -- a 22-horsepower, zero-turn monster that can plow through tall grass like a Panzer.

Somehow, the opportunity to own your own business as a kid by cutting lawns appears to be evaporating, going the way of the local paperboy.

Many lawns are mowed these days by landscape services companies, a $77 billion industry in America that showed an annual growth rate of 3.5 percent during the last five years, according to IBISWorld, a leading publisher of business intelligence based in Los Angeles. IBISWorld predicts that “steady per capita disposable income growth is projected to encourage households to continue outsourcing yard care” during the next five years.

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good, so Isaiah's predicament nationally appears to be benefitting small businesses. IBISWorld reports an interesting statistic: about 969,000 people are employed in the industry represented by 474,000 companies -- or an average of about 2 people per business. There aren’t any companies that have a dominant market share in the industry.

The trend certainly has helped Dustin Holzwarth, who barrelled around our neighborhood on the TimeCutter this week. He was able to mow a lawn in 12 minutes flat that normally would take 45 minutes with a self-powered walking mower. Dustin, 27 and self employed as Alpine Lawn & Landscape Management in Grand Rapids, hustled through three lawns and was quickly on his way to do more of the some 65 lawns he mows weekly.

“I learned how to work like this on the family farm,” said Dustin, who launched his own business 10 years ago.

No kid has ever stopped by to ask if he or she could cut my lawn, which is fine since I mow it myself as a three-times-a-week workout. As for Isaiah, I paid him $10 to help me throw some chunks of concrete onto a trailer recently. He was genuinely excited when I showed him how to use a sledgehammer to break pavement, so who knows. Maybe I’ll be seeing him in a few years running his own flatwork business.