By Steve Noe
On Sept. 15, 1997, when I started working in this industry for what has evolved into EPG Media LLC & Specialty Information, I must confess that I took the job out of necessity and figured I would stick around for a year and then move on. At the time, I was unemployed and in desperate need of a job so that my wife and I could afford to close on our first house in two weeks. Plus, the office was inconveniently located about 35 miles away from our new home (a minimum two-hour round-trip commute), and I eventually wanted to return to my roots as a sports writer/editor.
However, I quickly and unexpectedly fell in love with this industry, first as the editor of Green Industry Product News and then Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE), starting with the December 1997 issue. I enjoyed traveling around the country to attend all of the industry trade shows and annual meetings, getting the chance to meet so many nice and down-to-earth people, and chronicling all of my great experiences in the pages of OPE. In 2000, our company decided not to renew the lease of the office where I worked and allowed the editors and sales reps to work from home, so my long commute was suddenly no longer an issue. I was able to work from home for the next 17 years, covering the industry that I had grown to love. I enjoyed the challenges of taking OPE from its digest (fit-in-your-back-pocket or back-of-the-toilet) size to its current standard size, as well as leading the magazine from the Stone Age to the Digital Age by expanding its reach through its first website (outdoorpowerequipment.com), weekly e-newsletter (OPExtra) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/OutdoorPowerEquipmentMag). It’s been a great and rewarding ride!
But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. As I put the finishing touches on my 242nd consecutive monthly issue of OPE spanning more than 20 years, I am writing this column for the last time. I will be passing the torch as editor of OPE to my longtime colleague John Kmitta, who has served as the associate publisher of OPE and the editor of sister publications Landscape and Irrigation and Arbor Age. John and I have worked closely together for the past 18 years and developed a great friendship, and I couldn’t hand pick a better successor than him. OPE will be in very good hands.
I would like to thank each and every one of you for the warm welcome to this wonderful industry and for your support the past 20-plus years. I would especially like to thank the following people, and I apologize in advance to anyone that I accidentally overlook:
Ownership: Thank you for taking a chance on someone whose only previous industry-related experience was working for a landscaping company during my college summer vacations, allowing me the freedom and flexibility to do my job as I saw fit while providing for my family for more than 20 years, and giving me the opportunity to write this farewell column.
Advertisers: Without your financial support, there would be no magazine. I would like to give special thanks to the fine folks at Rotary Corporation, who advertised multiple times in every single issue.
Readers: Without you subscribing to and reading the magazine, the advertisers would not support the magazine, and it would cease to exist. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement, as well as for participating in all of my surveys over the years.
Co-workers: Too many to list, and most of them no longer work for the company, but thank you for putting up with my perfection-seeking, deadline-pushing ways over the years. I always appreciated your hard work, patience and understanding to help me produce the best possible print and digital products, month after month and year after year.
Contributing writers: To anyone who ever wrote a single article for me, I can’t thank you enough, as there is no way I could have done my job without you. I’d like to give special thanks, in no particular order, to Jeff Sheets, Bob Clements, Jim Yount, Paul Dilger, Dave Worden, Colleen Malloy, Chris Damico, John Hedges, Floyd Jerkins, Mike Hudson, Dan Zuerner, Tom Shay and Brian Lepine, as well as Jim Starmer and the other two Anonymous Distributors (you know who you are).
Editorial Advisory Board members: Once again, too numerous to list and many have retired, but I thank each and every person who voluntarily served on the OPE Editorial Advisory Board to help me shape the editorial direction of the magazine.
Associations: I would like to thank all of the current and former association administrations and their staffs for their unwavering support. I would especially like to thank the following people: Kris Kiser, Marla Popkin, Jean Hawes, Bill Harley and Dennis Dix of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI); Erik Sides, Jim and Rachel Roche, and Virgil Russell of the Equipment & Engine Training Council (EETC); Nancy Cueroni of the Outdoor Power Equipment & Engine Service Association (OPEESA); Kim Rominger, Mike Williams, Joe Dykes, Alex Hoffman and Natalie Higgins of the Equipment Dealers Association (EDA); and Paul Kindinger, Dan Cain and Mike Kraemer of the former North American Equipment Dealers Association (NAEDA).
GIE+EXPO show management and PR representatives: I would like to thank Warren and Susan Sellers, Troy Winebrenner and the rest of the fine folks at Sellers Expositions, as well as PR gurus Polly Moter and Amy Perkins, for always making sure that I had everything I needed to cover the industry’s top trade show and giving me the red carpet treatment every time I visited Louisville.
The Quinn family: I’d like to thank the Quinn family — the late and great Bill Quinn, who founded Lawn Equipment in September 1959 and had the foresight to rename it Outdoor Power Equipment 10 years later; his late wife Lynn; and his son and longtime OPE Editor Rix Quinn. After running the magazine for its first 30 years, they continued to take an active interest in OPE, passing along their wisdom and guidance and writing an occasional article during my tenure.
Public relations people: Way too many to list and I don’t want to run the risk of leaving anyone out. But, to anyone whoever held a press conference, sent me a press release, or responded to my follow-up questions and requests, I thank you for your invaluable assistance.
John Hedges: I would like to thank John Hedges, director of sales and marketing at Central Power Distributors, Inc. (CPD), for going from my very first critic to arguably my biggest fan, staunchest supporter and best friend in the industry. Thanks for sticking with me, brother!
Rick Zeckmeister: Thank you for all of your kind e-mails about my “Upfront” column, your always-insightful participation in our annual “Industry Forecasts,” and inviting me to the fun GIE+EXPO media events. Congratulations on your recent retirement, and I hope you have many happy and healthy years ahead of you!
My family: Last but not least, I would like to thank my wife and three daughters for their unconditional love and support, with me rarely taking a day off and working a lot of long hours to do my job to the best of my abilities.
Once again, if I left anyone out, please forgive me. As editor of OPE, I hope that I was able to help each and every one of you lead a more profitable business and a happier life. At the end of the day, I just wanted to make a positive impact on everyone in the industry at all levels. Thank you all for your kindness and support these past 20-plus years, and here’s hoping for at least 20 more years in this great industry and that our paths cross again soon. Please feel free to keep in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via LinkedIn.com. I would enjoy hearing from you. Bye for now…