Headed in the Right Direction. . .For Now

5/16/2012

By Ron Hall

As we approach midyear 2012 and four years after the most unsettling economic meltdown since The Great Depression I'm not ready to declare "Mission Accomplished."  Not by a long shot.


Yes, the shock caused by the calamitous banking and housing debacle has worn off and all seems to be headed in the right direction again, even if hesitantly.  But, keep in mind that it's an election year. The state of the economy on Tuesday, Nov. 6, will determine which politicians get their meal tickets punched. Friends, it's that simple.


Once our elected leaders, be they incumbents or newcomers, are sworn in and somewhat settled in their roles, they'll have tough decisions to make in terms of our nation's economy. Obviously, it's impossible now to predict how successful they'll be. God give them courage and wisdom to make the right calls.


Regardless of what they do, I remain optimistic about the industry's future. In fact, as I approach my 28th year reporting on our industry, I'm more convinced than ever that it's one of the most appreciated (and, to some extent, misunderstood) industries in North America. Most Americans and Canadians now take it as their birthright that they live, play, relax and entertain enjoying green, maintained and safe landscaped environments. . .even if they don't always comprehend the effort and expense required to provide them.


Many of you share our optimism as this unusually mild spring heads toward summer. Recently, more than 600 of you responded to our survey. We're gratified that you took part in our Turf magazine survey. Thank you!


The results suggest that our industry continues to recover from the Recession - modestly perhaps, but we're headed in the right direction nonetheless.


Fifty-four percent of you told us that the landscape industry is "relatively healthy," with 8.5 percent describing it as "thriving." When asked about 2012 gross revenues compared to 2011, 65 percent of you said that you budgeted for growth, with 24.6 percent expecting more than 10 percent growth during 2012.
 The numbers are encouraging, especially compared to where we were just a couple of years ago.

Even so, the industry faces strong headwinds in terms of competitive and pricing pressures and,increasingly with accounts receivables, contractor friends tell us. Several experienced owners recently told us that they've been stiffed on services provided. It seems to be a growing problem.

These are some of the concerns that they share with us face-to-face over a morning coffee or a friendly evening beer or two. That's when the real discussions start.


I'll have more to say about these issues and what you can do about them in future columns. Stay tuned.


Ron Hall is editor-in-chief of Turf and LHDB magazines and begins his 28th year reporting on the landscape industry on June 1.