Les Hulicsko, inventor of Sweep-Rite Sweepers, wins the 2015 WorldSweeper.com/World Sweeping Association Award of Excellence in Power Sweeping, the United States power sweeping industry's highest honor.
At the National Pavement Exposition, held in January of 2015, Ranger Kidwell-Ross, Executive Director of the World Sweeping Association and the Editor of WorldSweeper.com, presented the 2015 Award of Excellence in Power Sweeping to Les Hulicsko, retired founder of Regina, Saskatchewan-based Sweep-Rite Sweepers (now renamed SuperiorRoads Solutions).
The following is the video of the presentation ceremony at the 2015 National Pavement Exposition. The presentation occurred on January 30, 2015.
If you would prefer, the presentation wording – which includes an overview of how Hulicsko got his start and the impact he has had on a number of industries, including the power sweeping industry for which he won this year's WorldSweeper/World Sweeping Association Award of Excellence in Power Sweeping – is also reproduced below the video window. You may also access the video or view it full-screen on the YouTube.com website using this link.
Les Hulicsko was educated as an engineer in Hungary, a country from which he escaped to Austria in 1956. The reason: He found himself a wanted man after the revolution he supported was crushed by Soviet forces. Although he initially chose to emigrate to the United States, when the U.S. immigration quota was full he instead chose Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada because it was in the middle of Canada and close to the U.S. where he wanted to end up. However, once he got to Canada he never left.
In many ways, our award-winner has never stopped being a revolutionary. He has been designing, building and marketing new products and starting new businesses from the time he arrived in his adopted country in 1957. Along the way, he has revolutionized at least four different industries.
A few years after arriving in his new country, an old wrestling injury stopped him from working construction. A friend said, "Why don't you come and clean windows?" Our recipient did so, and almost immediately saw inefficiencies in the way the service was performed. Within two years he started his own window cleaning company he called 'Rite Way.' Soon, Rite Way was being contracted to clean windows in the tallest buildings in the city, including the Legislative Building, solely because of innovations in window cleaning efficiency our winner introduced.
His next business venture was rock pickers, which he began building in 1972: He designed the first rock picker that could pick up both large and small rocks at the same time because, for the first time ever in that industry, his design utilized hydraulics to increase the machine's power.
Then, a few years later our Award recipient, Les Hulicsko, stumbled onto another business that needed his talents. As part of his window cleaning business he had also started doing parking lot maintenance, using street sweepers to clean the lots. The problem was the machines were always breaking down.
"With the equipment we were using," he says, "we were experiencing no end of breakdowns. The equipment was built to be used in California and not for the hard-packed dirt that we have in Saskatchewan." Hulicsko figured there was a need for a rugged, intermediate-priced unit that would be less expensive than the largest self-contained units which, if you can imagine, cost up to $80,000, and were also larger than the smaller sweepers that were prone to frequent breakdowns. Hulicsko began working on the Sweep-Rite 2100 in 1976 and the first production model was completed in May of 1978.
It was a trailer-type sweeper that could be pulled behind a tractor. Hulicsko's Sweep-Rite tow-behind was the first in the sweeping industry that was built to be a hydrostatically-powered machine, rather than operating via sprockets-and-chains. This vastly reduced the number of moving parts. And, of course, many street sweepers today use hydrostatic drives and all utilize hydraulics.
Sweeprite Manufacturing, as the street sweeper manufacturing company was called, was begun in 1978. Shortly afterward, Hulicsko started building self-propelled models. Les also designed a one-person pothole patcher, today called the Python 5000, which can patch a pothole in two minutes while the operator sits safely in an air-conditioned cab. In 2012, his company was sold to a Saskatoon-based venture capital fund and the federal Business Development Bank of Canada. And, earlier this year, the company's name was changed to SuperiorRoads Solutions, which continues to manufacture and market both pothole patchers and street sweepers.
During his long career, our recipient has been called many things: a dreamer, an inventor, an entrepreneur – even a genius. Hulicsko himself, however, prefers to think of himself as an innovator, rather than an inventor.
"I've seen so many inventors," he says "They could dream, but they could never really put their dreams into practice. I had dreams, too, but I didn't try to sell an idea until I could build it and produce it." Therein lies the difference.
Les Hulicsko retired at the end of 2014 at the age of 78. On the eve of his last official day at the company he founded more than 40 years ago, Hulicsko's final reminder to everyone was to "Think outside of the box."
Scott Yasinski, VP of Sales for the company Hulicsko founded, the Saskatchewan-based sweeper manufacturer now called SuperiorRoads Solutions, was on hand to accept the 2015 Award of Excellence in Power Sweeping on Les Hulicsko's behalf.
We have recorded an audio interview with Hulicsko that covers the time from when he escaped from Hungary to Austria in 1956, and then to Saskatchewan, all the way to when he retired from his company in 2014. This interview has been separated into three different components to allow readers to choose what they would like to hear.
The first section is about Les' emigration to Canada with $75 in his pocket and his subsequent challenge in finding employment without speaking English. His first real job was as a window cleaner. However, before long Hulicsko's engineering background led him to develop innovations to the way window cleaning was done and ultimately he started his own window cleaning company and had his previous employer as a subcontractor cleaning the large government buildings in the area. Then, he started a company that innovated the building of rock-picking equipment. To listen to this first 17-minute interview, click on this link. (Opens into a new window.)
Our second audio interview starts with what occurred starting in about 1972, and discusses the expansion of the rock-picking innovations that began in part one. Hulicsko's rock-picker design was the first to use hydraulics and thus be able to handle both large and small rocks with the same machine. His former company's models are still the leading seller in the rock-picking equipment industry today. This 9-minute interview covers up until Hulicsko started building power sweepers. To access it use this link.
Our final interview section begins with Hulicsko's problems with sweepers after his window cleaning company started performing various pavement maintenance tasks for his clients, including parking lot sweeping. The sweepers kept breaking; manufacturer-only parts were both expensive and took a long time to get from the U.S.; and, he felt the designs were too complex and not efficient. As a result, Hulicsko began building sweepers, starting with a pull-behind model. The company he founded, Sweep-Rite Manufacturing, became a power in the sweeper business, one that lives on today as the Saskatchewan, Canada-based SuperiorRoads Solutions. To access this final 24-minute audio interview in our three-part series, click here.
To see the wording on the actual award, take a look at this PDF version of the Award.
For more information about SuperiorRoads Solutions, the new name of Hulicsko's former sweeper manufacturing company, we invite you to visit the company's website, which is located at SuperiorRoads Solutions. The company's phone number in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, is 306-337-4440.
If you have questions or comments about this article, please, let us know and we can add it in as an addendum to this article.