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Cleaning Coast to Coast: The Lone Star State

Cleaning Coast to Coast: The Lone Star State

Written by Diane Calabrese | Published June 2024

Lone Star State - Texas stock image

TEXAS BY THE NUMBERS

Most people have heard the saying: Don’t mess with Texas! It’s been the unofficial slogan of “The Lone Star State” for decades. While most people might think it’s a warning to watch your back, Texans know the saying was part of a statewide campaign in 1985 to clean up litter on the highways. While the state may have cleaned up their litter over the past 35-plus years, things still get dirty. For the pressure washing industry, this means the range of business opportunities is as vast as the state.

Texas has a total area of 268,820 square miles (696,241 km²), ranking just behind Alaska in terms of geographical size. However, with over 30 million residents, it has over 60 times the population of Alaska. Texas is the second largest state in population after California and offers lifestyle, recreational, and business opportunities relating to both big cities and rural areas, as well as proximity to the ocean, the mountains, and the desert.

Much of the population is concentrated in the major cities of Austin (the capital), Houston (the most populated), Dallas–Fort Worth, San Antonio, McAllen, El Paso, and their corresponding metro areas. The “Texas Triangle” megaregion geographically encompasses four major metropolitan areas: Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. The Texas Triangle is connected by Interstates 45, 10, and 35.

In addition to its large cities and diverse landscapes, Texas is famous for its legendary cowboy culture, southern hospitality, and delicious Tex-Mex cuisine. From a quality-of-life perspective, football, rodeos, music, and a multitude of great universities make it special.

WHATEVER THE WEATHER

“Our climate is as good as you can find in the United States,” declares Loren Hodges. “We can generally work every day of the year and have no need for seasonal shutdowns. Sure, there can be lots of wind and dust in the spring, but we’re fortunate that in our area we don’t have to contend with floods, mudslides, or forest fires.”

That said, the daily temperatures can vary significantly. Some mornings it can be a chilly 30°, and it heats up to 80° by the end of the day. If you sell equipment, you could be selling heaters and cooling fans on the same day. And speaking of HVAC systems, it goes without saying that air conditioning is a “must have” in most of Texas. Opportunities abound for selling and serving systems like Optima Steamers for coil cleaning on A/C units, as well as mobile cleaning contracts.

Being such a large state, Texas has weather patterns that vary dramatically. This presents different challenges in different areas for pressure washers. Overall, Texas is humid and hot. Summers provide long stretches of clear skies with temperatures that can soar above 90° for days on end. Extreme heat makes for heavy staff fatigue and the risk of flash drying, so a lot of cleaning is done in the early morning or overnight. For stationary equipment (not mobile), most companies have walled wash bays that provide shade, so they can work all day.

Longhorn Distributing Image

With the exception of the subtropical humid climate of the eastern quarter of the state, in most regions evaporation exceeds precipitation, yielding a semi-arid or steppe climate that becomes arid in far west Texas. This high evaporation rate can make pressure washing a challenge, and service providers have to schedule their work accordingly.

The big call for residential pressure washing typically starts just before Easter when locals plan traditional “crawfish boils,” so the focus for spring cleaning is on wood decks, pool decks, sidewalks, and driveways, etc.

Extreme heat and blazing sun can be a challenge for cleaning homes, which are largely stucco-clad, which tends to fade or oxidize. Roofs are typically asphalt shingles with some clay tile. Improper cleaning can leave wand marks on the stucco and break off the bottom of the stucco. In wetter/ coastal regions, algae and mold can be encountered.

The rainy season is mainly March through May and sometimes September and October. Showers are generally

Before and After photo from HydroClean

short and intense, but rainy periods can last a couple of days. Intense hail, hurricanes, and tornadoes may also be experienced.

The winters are fairly mild, and most regions would never get snow; however, according to the National Weather Service, Amarillo and parts of the Panhandle average up to 20 inches annually.

DOING BUSINESS IN TEXAS

Texas largely uses local property taxes instead of state income taxes to fund their governments. Since employees’ salaries are only subject to federal taxes—and no cities impose a local income tax—bookkeeping can be a little easier. That said, if you do business in the bordering states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, or Louisiana, or neighboring Mexico, you’ll need to collect and redeem the appropriate taxes, and that complicates finances. Customers from Mexico must also bring the appropriate purchasing documents that you will need to complete for them.

Texas also can boast that, in addition to the favorable tax structure, it’s a business-friendly state. Relaxed construction regulations, lower labor costs, and lower property taxes all contribute to making housing and the overall cost of living more affordable as compared to other highly populated states. With its proximity to Mexico, it also helps to have bilingual (Spanish-speaking) staff.

The state is attracting large, high-tech manufacturing operations and is becoming known as the “manufacturing capital of the nation,” producing computers and electronic goods, motor vehicles and parts, food and beverages, and more. That, combined with long-standing industries like information technology, oil and natural gas, aerospace, defense, biomedical research, fuel processing, electric power, and agriculture, presents a myriad of possibilities for those who sell pressure washing equipment or are contract service providers.

Trucking is also a big business, and as a result car washes and fleet cleaning provide great opportunities. A lot of these trucking companies have their own wash bays, so the opportunity is there to sell and service equipment and stationary wash systems. The challenge, because Texas is so large, is the distance going from place to place for sales and service work.

“Our business has been increasing over the past 10 years,” adds Hodges. “The last two years are the best we’ve ever had. A lot of big companies are moving here because of the climate and the price of housing. With the booming population, construction is booming, too.”

ENVIRONMENTAL AND OTHER CHALLENGES

In some parts of the state, especially West Texas, there can be challenges with minerals or sediment in the water. In El Paso, for example, city water is pulled from the Rio Grande or an aquifer, and the water is good. But as you travel from the major centers, they may be pulling from well water, so you can encounter problems. This may require more frequent servicing and cleaning of filters.

“We set up our customers with preventive maintenance (PM) agreements on their equipment,” explains Rick Babin. “For many, the stationary wash bays aren’t just a means to clean equipment. They are often the starting point for new employees to learn about the company culture and then advance from the wash bay into other areas of the company, such as the teardown section or the repair side of the tools.”

“Water usage is a big challenge because droughts are common,” explains LB Schultz. “Being water conscious is a big deal here. In extreme cases cities will crack down on car washes and regulate water use. Sometimes they are even shut down.

There are a lot of rules pertaining to wastefulness, and car washing at home is a big one. As a result, a lot of mobile auto detailers now utilize steam cleaning instead of pressure washing, and Steamericas’s products are becoming increasingly popular.”

Water reclamation is huge, and a big part of securing contracts is educating customers with regard to discharge— not allowing wastewater, which may contain chemicals, mold, etc. down the storm drains or onto substrate.

“Things have changed in the last 25 years,” adds Rick Babin. “In the past, we would rarely sell a wash water recycle system; it was all ‘wash to the ground.’ Today all departments in all major cities in Texas, even the police departments, have an environmental section. No more washing to the ground and, obviously, not to a storm drain. Water reclamation systems that allow proper discharge to a sanitary sewer, or recapture to transport off site, are now a big part of our business. In most regions contract cleaners must have wastewater recovery systems on their trailers.

Permits issued by the county identify the specific approved dump sites to take it to, and activity logs must be kept. Fines are hefty for noncompliance.”

Water use and reclamation aside, “oversaturation” also comes in the form of competition. “When we started over 30 years ago, building a pressure washing business was about putting in your time and learning by attending trade shows and conventions like PWNA and CETA,” recalls Joey Hilliard. “Today some entrepreneurs are starting companies and using social media, not proven skill and service, to build their businesses. I’ve seen prices lowered because of the oversaturation of cleaning companies. We carry $5 million general liability, $2 million per truck, and we have to bid against companies that don’t have insurance or workers’ compensation benefits (WCB). You have to price yourself accordingly. We fight that on a constant basis. Eventually, they work themselves out of business because it’s too expensive for them to do it right. From a customer

perspective, they get what they pay for. They eventually come back to us. But the simple fact remains that competition from ‘weekend warriors’ represents lost revenue.

“That said, one area where you can get a leg up over the smaller contractors is spin-off companies that service or work for the refineries,” adds Hilliard. “While many petrochemical companies and various plants have their own in-house pressure washing systems, you might get called to clean roofs, parking areas, building exteriors, pipes, vessels, storage containers, or other facilities with pressure washing, soft washing, or hydro blasting. These types of contracts typically require that you have a company safety manual, handbooks, and all the protocols for refinery safety training. It’s expensive to work in the refineries, but it’s worthwhile.”

And as in other states, staffing remains a challenge as does the ever-increasing costs of parts and equipment, operating expenses, and insurance. All of these expenses have to be passed down to your customers.

Overall, the future for the pressure washing industry in Texas looks as bright as that lone star proudly displayed on the state flag.

CONTRIBUTOR BIOS

Joey Hilliard, CEO, HydroClean Services Inc., Beaumont, TX

HydroClean was established in 1991 and is a full-service pressure washing company that specializes in pressure washing and soft washing services. They offer exterior cleaning for residential, commercial, and industrial properties, as well as exhaust systems in restaurants, maintenance for grocery store chains, and bakery/deli equipment, etc.

LB Schultz, inside sales and special projects, Hotsy Carlson Equipment Company

LB’s father started in 1975 as “Carlson Cleaners,” taking on the Hotsy brand in the 1990s. The company now has locations in Austin, Bryan, and Killeen, TX, primarily serving contract cleaners. They’re now owned by Texas Enterprise Corporations and work collaboratively with their sister companies in oil and gas, car dealerships, small engine shops, and more.

Loren Hodges is president and owner of Longhorn Distributing in El Paso, TX

This Hotsy dealer has been in business for 30 years. In addition to servicing and selling Hotsy pressure washing and car wash equipment, they specialize in blending auto detailing and other chemicals and sell to the local state governments, the army base, small stores, and public service contractors in West Texas, the southern part of New Mexico, and Mexico.

Rick Babin (VP of operations) and his wife, Tina Babin (president), co-own Tri-Coastal Industrial Wash Systems

They’re based in Houston and cover the entire state. They represent Mi-T-M, Pressure-Pro, and Hydro Tek, to name a few. This is one of a few woman-owned companies in the pressure washing industry.

Contributors: Joey Hilliard, HydroClean Services; LB Schultz, Hotsy Carlson Equipment Company; Loren Hodges, Longhorn Distributing; Rick Babin, TriCoastal Industrial Wash Systems

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