Business may be finally getting back to “normal” for many green industry companies. In April the American Society of Landscape Architects released its Business Quarterly survey, which indicated that companies are reporting higher levels of billable hours, hiring and, most importantly, inquiries for new work. The organization is cautiously optimistic that this is a sign that the lack of new design and construction projects during the past two years may finally be coming to an end.
“The large number of inquiries marks an important sign of recovery, but by no means is this suddenly a booming economy for landscape architects,” said ASLA executive vice president and CEO Nancy Somerville.
Inquiries for new work jumped 72.7 percent with steady or higher levels. This is an increase from 53.7 percent during the last quarter of 2009 and 25.3 percent for the same quarter last year. Another good sign is that 21.6 percent of landscape firms planned to hire new employees during the second quarter. This is the highest number to report hiring plans since the third quarter of 2008.
Sandy Munley, executive director of the Ohio Landscape Association, told the Columbus Dispatch that the industry prior to the recent economic downturn had been fortunate to experience years of steady growth. She said this recession was the first to really impact the industry. She said many association members are very optimistic because they have seen an increase in inquiries.
John Reiner, president of Oakland Nursery in Columbus, told the newspaper that the recession changed the consumer mindset about landscaping projects—the type and how much they were willing to spend.
He said last year’s projects were smaller in regards to size and budget. This year people are willing to invest more. They are adding amenities like lighting and irrigation, which they weren’t willing to purchase last year.
Good news for growers, consumers, wildlife
The economic downturn led to many consumers resorting to staycations which lead to investing in improvements to their living spaces, including outdoors. Some homeowners are taking eco-friendliness to the extreme creating certified wildlife habitats. Currently the National Wildlife Federation has certified about 128,000 backyards. USA Today reports that since 2003 enrollment in the 37-year old backyard certification program has increased 400 percent.
NWF offers simple tips for attracting birds and butterflies and other wildlife regardless of whether a person lives in a city balcony apartment or on a country farm. One of these tips is to provide wildlife with a place that offers both food and shelter, including the use of a variety of plants to provide foliage, pollen, seed and berries.
For more: Ohio Landscape Association, (440) 717-0002; www.ohiolandscapers.org. National Wildlife Federation, (800) 822-9919; www.nwf.org.