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Why We Opted for Minnesota Native Prairie Landscaping for Our Corporate Campus

An Interview with Troy Schmidke, CEO/Owner Design Ready Controls

(Editor’s note:  Design Ready Controls  (DRC) serves a global market from their facility in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.  They chose Prairie Restorations, Inc. to convert a portion of their campus land to native plants, and we recently talked with CEO Troy Schmidke about that project.)

Question:  What inspired you to take a more nontraditional approach to landscaping the campus at Design Ready Controls?

Answer:  I have always been an avid outdoors person.  I learned to hunt and fish with my dad as a kid around our family farm; I spent many years hiking, mountaineering and skiing in Alaska; and, I enjoy sailing, canoeing, and gardening.  I studied chemistry at St. Olaf and civil engineering at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.  I have learned over the years about the unique challenges of nonpoint source pollution* and different endangered ecological systems, especially wetlands, prairies and oak savannahs.  All of this combined with climate change and the alarming decline of pollinators, monarchs, and other species made me want to integrate our company’s mission with a practical environmental message we could share with our customers, suppliers, community supporters and employees.

Question Were there incentives or pressures from the City of Brooklyn Park or MN/DOT to add natural or native landscaping areas to the campus?

Answer:  Although we are receiving no incentives or pressures from local government or MN/DOT, I am hoping they will see the benefits in the future.  Although we were able to realize credits for our energy efficient heating system and interior lighting systems, there is currently no credit for environmentally sound landscaping.

Question: Do you see any cost benefits/deficits with a native landscape compared to a traditional turf grass based landscape?

Answer:  We estimate the overall costs to be similar, with slightly higher initial costs for installation and for regularly scheduled burns and invasive species control.  But there will be an offset because we estimate the costs for regular maintenance associated with watering, mowing, trimming, chemical enhancement, etc. to be lower over the long haul.  We will be doing a cost/benefit analysis over the next decade and will be prepared to share that information with others who might be interested in native landscaping for their businesses.

Question: What do you hope to see or accomplish by installing a native plant landscape?

Answer:  It is my hope that our business partners and employees will see the benefits of environmentally sound landscaping as a practical solution in the same light as energy saving lighting, energy saving HVAC systems, and alternative energy generation like solar and wind.  Part of that discussion involves focusing on long-term results over decades.

Question: Habitat loss, pollinator species decline, and water quality and runoff are all environmental concerns showing up in mainstream media lately. Were any of these concerns a part of your decision making process when it came to installing a native landscape?

Answer:  These issues were definitely involved.  Based on my education and experience as well as a growing awareness of the threat our environment is under, being able to take steps to reduce our impact on Minnesota’s natural resources and contribute to solutions were integral parts of this decision.

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Prairie Restorations, Inc. is proud to have partnered with DRC in the design, installation, and ongoing maintenance of their native landscaping.  It is our hope that this project might encourage other businesses to consider the benefits of going native in landscaping of their corporate campuses.  There are benefits both to our natural environment as well as to the businesses themselves.

*Nonpoint pollution occurs where snow melt or rainfall transfers pollutions (natural as well as manmade) to lakes, rivers, wetlands, and ground water.



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