State of the Industry: Addressing the Issues Impacting the Market Now and Moving Forward

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For our annual State of the Industry report, we sought feedback from industry professionals from all areas of the landscape and irrigation markets. Association leaders, manufacturers, contractors, designers, and more lent their insights to this overview of industry issues. In Part 1, below, we discussed some of the challenges the industry has seen in the past year, and delved into some thoughts as to what 2012 might bring.

PLANET President Jerry Grossi, Landscape Industry Certified Technician: The biggest challenge, in my opinion, has been water issues. We had some victories with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the green building code, but the issues aren't going away. It is important to stay vigilant and use good economic sense to stay engaged in issues such as the banning of fertilizer and pesticides. The challenge for us is to win the emotional appeal or these issues.

Another challenge we saw in 201 I is the immigration and visa issue that came with the H-2B ruling. We've had a temporary victory on this issue, but we need to stay attentive to win this for good. Challenges that are hovering in the back-ground, like ethanol issues, will surface shortly, but we have a stay on these battles.

PLANET President-elect Norman Goldenberg, Landscape Industry Certified Technician: Another big challenge we are facing is the local ordinances that have been adopted around the country and that have hindered operations on local levels. As Jerry said, the water issues are challenging in that we have science and technology on our side, but the perception of the industry is not based on science. Wherever there are waterways issues or water is scarce, the green industry is seen as wasting water. This negative perception gets all of the publicity. We need to be better about touting the benefits our industry provides for the environment.

Tim Banfield, ASLA, president, Outdoor Living, Inc.: Unstable economy, large inventory of foreclosed homes, lack of support from banks.

David Brock, owner, manager and chief field technician for DBS Pest Control: Taxes and the resulting uncertainty affecting planning. The politicians seem to be representing their personal agendas, not the country at large. I know, as a one-man shop, there seems to be great uncertainty coming from Washington.

Maria Candler, CLP, president, James River Grounds Management, Inc.: Even with unemployment percentage so high, we struggled to find and keep good labor. In some of our offices we experienced 120 percent turnover. This has caused our safety scores to be affected, as well as morale in general. To work on overcoming this, we have had to go through somewhat of a cultural shift in how we think of performance. We have beefed up our human resource team, and are working on a total performance management system that factors in everything from an improved screening process, a more thorough onboarding process for new- employees, and a genuine environment of trying to gain the performance you need from someone instead of the old mindset of "if they aren't what we need exactly, get them out and move on to the next.11

Pat Cappucci, president & COO of Schiller Grounds Care, Inc. (manufacturer of BOB-CAT, Classen, Little Wonder, Mantis, Ryan and Steiner brand equipment): Rising fuel, energy and materials costs have made pricing services more difficult, especially as growing the top line has become more difficult. Also, making things more complicated is that contractors have been forced to reengineer their businesses in light of declining installation projects. To be competitive in the marketplace, there is a desire to absorb as much of these increased costs as possible to maintain and grow business. However, the across-the-board increases over the past few years have made absorbing those costs nearly impossible -- no matter how lean and efficient a company has learned to operate in today's economy. On a positive note, in our industry, the services provided are valued as much for their aesthetics as they are for their functionality, practicality or necessity So long as the increase in price is not stark or severe, customers will pay a reasonable increase in cost to maintain their property. …