It’s a great winter for the snow removal industry

Marketplace Staff Feb 3, 2011

It’s a great winter for the snow removal industry

Marketplace Staff Feb 3, 2011


Bob Moon: This may be the understatement of the day, but there is a lot of snow on the ground all across the Midwestern and Northeastern United States. Cities and counties are reporting record or near-record snowfalls, schools are canceled, airports and businesses are closed and people are stranded at home, unable to get to work. Kind of miserable for a lot of folks, but for anyone who makes their living on the task of plowing all that snow, these are the kinds of days they look forward to all year.

Mike Zawacki is the editor of Snow magazine. And yes, you heard that right, there is a magazine called “Snow.” It’s a trade publication for the professional snow removal industry. Hi Mike.

Mike Zawacki: How ya doin’?

Moon: So, having fun with all this snow, are ya?

Zawacki: Definitely. It is a great time to be in the snow removal business, that’s for sure.

Moon: How does this year compare with years past in terms of business for your industry?

Zawacki: Well, as you know, weather’s very cyclical. And when it snows like it has this winter — pretty consistently, with real marquee events — the guys in our industry can really clean up (pardon the pun). But in the lean years, where it doesn’t snow as much and guys are golfin’ in February, it can be a pretty rough time.

Moon: Well, how much money can snow removal companies bring in during an epic snow storm like this?

Zawacki: The professional snow removal industry is between an $8- and $12-billion industry.

Moon: That’s a lot of money.

Zawacki: That is a lot of money. Of course, the high side is on a really great winter like the winter we’re havin’. We’re expecting it to be more towards the $12 billion area this year.

Moon: This is important, though. It’s more than just a headache than it is for a lot of us. For businesses, this is between life and death in many ways.

Zawacki: Yeah, absolutely, especially in this economy. Retail businesses and commercial businesses, you’ve gotta have your doors open. And if you’re in a place like a hospital or a medical facility, you have very strict and tight policies with regards to snow removal and ice mitigation, and they depend on professional contractors have that pavement be clean.

Moon: My favorite headline of yours recently was something like “Snow: Too much of a good thing?” It must get exhausting, huh?

Zawacki: We like to ask that question, because obviously, you ask any snow contractor how their winter’s been, they’re going to tell you it’s been great. But after a while, these storms — especially when they’re back-to-back like this, where your crews are out maybe two days straight, and then you got another storm at the tail end of that and you’re out again — it does begin to wear on crews. And believe me, by late March, early April, these guys are going to be ready for a nice, long vacation.

Moon: Mike Zawacki is the editor of Snow Magazine. Thanks for joining us.

Zawacki: Thank you.

Moon: By the way, you’ve really gotta see this: We’ve posted a satellite photo from earlier this week that shows the stunning sweep of this storm, covering more than half the states, coast to coast. You can check it out in full color here.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.