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EVERYDAY PEOPLE: Brainerd native’s jobs are an economic indicator

Joel Jacobson (right) spent some time at home with his wife, Grace, and 18-month

Joel Jacobson might be one of the few business owners in Brainerd who actually got busier when the recession hit a few years ago.

Joel owns and operates Jacobson Excavating and Landscaping, and although he has little experience in gauging the temperature of the real estate market he is kind of the index for real estate health in the Brainerd lakes area.

In 2007, Joel landed the job of putting up property for sale/lease signs for Brainerd-based Close-Converse Commercial and Preferred Properties.

Joel also does landscaping work for Close-Converse. Joel said the recession meant more work for him, but not the kind of work he wanted to see a lot.

“When I was putting up a lot of signs it meant people were going out of business,” he said. “It’s slowing down, but that’s good sign.”

With his sign-posting duties slowing, Joel has more time for the part his job he loves.

“I like to be outside and work with my hands,” he said.

Joel started Jacobson Excavating and Landscaping six years ago and said he does “pretty much all kind of landscaping.”

Joel’s work also includes excavating for basements and sewer systems.

“He’s always wanted own his own business,” said Joel’s wife of three and-a-half years, Grace. Joel and Grace have one son, Angus, 18 months.

Joel said being a native of the Brainerd lakes area has served to his advantage.

“I had a lot of friends’ parents and relatives who helped me out,” he said. “I was pretty naive, but I just did what I could and it just kind of grew from there.”

Owning a landscaping business in northern Minnesota means a short work season and the need for creativity to keep business going through the winter months.

“Right now is crunch time because we have to get all the dirt work done before the frost,” he said. “We’ll go pretty much until the ground freezes.”

Jacobson doesn’t work alone. Including himself he has “two and a half employees,” he said — the half being his dad, Alvin, who works part time with Joel and spends the rest of his time as a beef farmer. “He helps me out when I need it and I help him when he needs it.”

In the winter months, Joel transitions his business for dirt removal to snow removal. He said like most outdoor contractors, his business slows down in the winter months.

“But that’s when I help my dad,” he said.

Even with a slower winter schedule, Joel manages to keep himself busy. In addition to operating his own business and helping out his dad, Joel serves as a volunteer on-call firefighter with the Brainerd Fire Department. Joel said he is among the youngest at the Fire Department but that doesn’t make a difference for him.

“I love it,” he said. “I am one of the youngest but there are guys newer than me. There are getting to be some younger guys.”

By the time the snow melts next spring and Joel gets ready to head back out into a season of landscaping, he and his wife Grace will be welcoming a new member to the Jacobson family.

They are expecting their second child in April.

“It’s a blessing,” Joel said.

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.