Ivy League: Columbia Spotlight
Advanced Turf Solutions has 24 locations that proudly serve customers in 15 states. Columbia is one of five locations in Missouri and has been a part of the ATS family since 2016.
Andrew Palmer has been the facility manager in Columbia since 2017. Tony Hicks is the assistant facility manager and has been with ATS since 2021. The facility is 20,000 square feet with the recent addition of a new warehouse. Two drivers round out the tight-knit operations team in Columbia.
Read on to meet two of the four operations employees at the Columbia facility.
Tony joined the Columbia team as a warehouse associate last February and recently became the assistant facility manager. He was born and raised in nearby Jeff City and still has family in the area. Tony attended the University of Central Missouri and later earned his commercial turf & grounds management degree from State Technical College of Missouri.
Before joining ATS, Tony was an applicator for Central Missouri Turf Management. Most of the work he did there was lawn fertilization and weed control. His lawn care experience prepared him well for his current role, although he still had to learn about products for golf courses and sports fields. He learned quickly and now considers customer service his favorite part of the job. Answering questions from turf professionals is a gratifying responsibility for Tony. He likes being in the turf industry and working with the crew in Columbia.
Outside of work, Tony is an avid runner. He ran in high school and then picked it back up again in his early thirties. He has run several marathons since, most recently completing the Boston Marathon in 2:49 last fall. He plans to run the New York City Marathon in November of this year, aiming for a finish under 2:40. During the peak of training, Tony runs 70 to 90 miles a week.
While marathon training keeps him busy, Tony also enjoys spending time with family and friends. He and his wife recently celebrated their anniversary at a Cardinals game in St. Louis. In addition to baseball, Tony is a Chiefs football fan and a loyal Mizzou Tiger. His family includes two black Labradors named Jack and June. Grilling, fishing, and golfing with his dad round out his hobbies.
Neal started as a driver at ATS last January. He brought with him more than two decades of experience, having previously worked for 21 years at The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri as a driver and eventually as the USDA Product Coordinator. Being new to the turfgrass industry, Neal was surprised to discover how many golf courses and sports fields there are that he never even noticed before.
Sports have always been a big part of Neal’s life. He was born and raised near Columbia and has lived in the area ever since. He grew up playing baseball with his dad as a coach, eventually playing at Hallsville High School and going to the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
Neal credits his dad with the work ethic he brings to ATS every day. “I was probably 15 years old. My dad said ‘Son—sorry, we’re not rich. So a 40-hour work week is something you’re going to have to live with the rest of your life. Find something you enjoy doing, and go do it.’ And I would say in the 37 years that I’ve been working, I can honestly say I’ve never—not once—gotten up in the morning and not wanted to go to work because of work.”
Neal enjoys working at ATS because of the camaraderie he has with the crew in Columbia, in addition to others around the company. When he drives to other warehouses, everyone is friendly and seems to want to be there, he said. He also appreciates how supportive and stable ATS is.
Neal and his wife recently celebrated their 21st anniversary. They have two children, six grandchildren, and one great grandchild who all keep them busy. He likes woodworking, playing pool, fishing for slab crappie, and bowling in the local league. Another hobby of Neal’s is writing poetry, which he started as a way to say goodbye when his dad passed away nearly thirty years ago.
Neal’s favorite sports teams are similar to Tony’s. He’s a fan of the Cardinals, Mizzou Tigers, and Kansas City Chiefs—ever since St. Louis lost the Cardinals football team. He hopes to see the Cardinals play the Cubs at Wrigley Field someday. Neal and his wife have had fun visiting landmarks like the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls over the years, and Yellowstone is one still on the list to see.