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Landscape and Irrigation recently asked several industry leaders to provide inside information about the state of the landscape and irrigation industries as we begin 2008. Part two in a two-part series.

Zooming in on 2008: Part two of two

Landscape and Irrigation recently asked several industry leaders to provide inside information about the state of the landscape and irrigation industries as we begin 2008. Landscape and Irrigation received the following written responses:


 


Professional Landcare Network (PLANET)


Jim Martin, CLP, 2007 president


L&I: What would you like landscape professionals to know about your organization as we head into 2008?


Martin: That the cost of membership in PLANET is free when a member considers the return on investment by participating in affinity programs and the value of the learning obtained through member education events and publications.


 


L&I: What do you feel will be the biggest issue for landscape professionals in 2008?


Martin: I think our industry’s biggest issue is our lack of effective involvement in the political process at the national, state and local levels. The cost of not being involved may not be obvious until challenging regulations are passed. The best way to address this issue is for industry members to personally connect with their government officials, one office at a time, and to stay connected forever. We need our elected officials to know us as awesome, contributing members of our communities. This is the only way we will be able to influence legislation that will dramatically affect our industry.


 


L&I: What do you feel are the most significant trends of the past year in the landscape industry, and will those trends continue in 2008?


Martin: The trend toward environmentally sustainable business practices within the overall marketplace is the most significant phenomenon of the past five years. The landscape industry has an opportunity to take a leadership role in shaping how these practices impact on the built landscape environment. I see these trends exploding over the next five years.


 


L&I: Do you think the 2008 presidential election will have an impact on the landscape industry? If so, how?


Martin: Should a democrat be elected president with a democratic congress, I would expect a number of major issues to be addressed early in 2009. Some will be favorable to our industry such as a solution to comprehensive immigration reform. Others, such as environmental and workplace regulations may not be so favorable. If our industry embraces the opportunity to champion our roles as environmental stewards, this could turn out to be very good for our industry. Should a republican be elected with a democratic congress, I would expect more of what we have experienced during these last few years where congress has been very challenged to accomplish any significant legislation. Should a republican be elected with a republican congress, I would see a more difficult environment for our industry’s need for a legal immigrant workforce.


 


L&I: Who would you nominate for landscape industry professional of the year? Why?


Martin: My nomination would go to Ron Damgaard. This past year, at PLANET’s Summer Leadership Meeting, Ron issued a challenge to PLANET’s Academic Excellence Foundation. Years ago, Ron became a founding ambassador by making a contribution of $25,000 to fund a permanent annual scholarship. He challenged the foundation to raise $25,000 before November in small donations. When this challenge was met, Ron promised he would make a second $25,000 donation to the foundation’s scholarship program. By making his pledge as a challenge, Ron has now helped generate enough funding to support three scholarships on an annual basis forever.


 


L&I: What is your boldest prediction for 2008?


Martin: Due to the recent economic challenges associated with the housing market, the increased rhetoric and impact to the country’s economy from restrictive immigration regulations, and the sixth year of our involvement in the war in Iraq, the number and percent of eligible voters that vote in November 2008 will be greater than any presidential election held in the past 100 years.


 


L&I: What other piece of advice would you give to landscape professionals in 2008?


Martin: My favorite public service project is participating in PLANET’s volunteer day at Arlington National Cemetery. If you can make the trip, I guarantee it will touch you in a manner that few other experiences are capable of matching. Go to LandcareNetwork.org for more information. If you can’t participate in this event, find an opportunity in your local community to make a difference through the gift of giving.


 


 


The Irrigation Association (IA)


L&I: What would you like irrigation professionals to know about your organization as we head into 2008?


IA: The IA’s Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT) fuels initiatives for promoting efficient irrigation technology. We strongly encourage the industry to support approved SWAT controllers. The IA wishes for consumers to also continue to be educated on regular system maintenance and upgrades that will save water, which is one of our main industry concerns.


We also encourage those in the irrigation industry to become IA certified as an irrigation contractor, designer, auditor or water manager. 2008 is going to be an exciting and challenging year that is sure to demand support from all angles of industry. It will mark the third year that July stands as “Smart Irrigation Month.” July is a peak month for water usage and it’s the perfect time to be conscious about how to use water more wisely. Smart Irrigation Month is also a great opportunity for irrigation professionals to promote water-saving products and practices to their clients.


Mark your calendar. The 2008 International Irrigation Show will be held in Anaheim, Calif., from Nov 2-4. Plan to attend the show to meet industry gurus and see the year’s latest and greatest products.


 


L&I: What do you feel will be the biggest issue for irrigation professionals in 2008?


IA: Water issues are a huge concern all across the United States, specifically in Georgia, California, Texas, Colorado and other states. Water for irrigation has been turned off because of severe drought in the Midwest. It is necessary to instill better water management practices to avoid these drastic situations in the future.


Economic uncertainty is playing heavily on the minds of many irrigation service providers. The downturn in the housing market is becoming more widespread and it is not clear what pressure that will put on the irrigation business. The best way to pay close attention to the opportunities is by enhancing services offered to current customers in the way of maintenance and management of existing irrigation systems. This is also a good way to identify opportunities for selling various sensors, Smart controllers and other system enhancements.


 


L&I: What do you feel are the most significant trends of the past year in the irrigation industry and will those trends continue in 2008?


IA: The most significant trends are water supply shortages and sustainability in green building. We are learning more about just how significant the impact of a water supply crisis can impact the irrigation industry by directly witnessing the economic disaster suffered by many businesses in the Southeast United States last year, and this trend is expected to broaden over time. With this in mind, it’s clear that properly managing water resources has never been more important.


Green building is a trend that is here to stay. To add to the already highly successful LEED program developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, two other key initiatives are in development — sustainable sites (http://www.sustainablesites.org) and sustainable agricultural practice standards (http://www.scscertified.com/programs/SCS-001_SusAgStdFP_041307-LEO.pdf). Water has a huge role in the overall sustainability discussion as life ceases to exist without water.


 


L&I: Do you think the 2008 presidential election will have an impact on the irrigation industry? If so, how?


IA: Regardless of who our next president is, we will continue to see a growing emphasis on access to water, because of prolonged drought in states like Nebraska, Colorado and Georgia. Legislation relating to watering restrictions and water rights disputes tends to be based more on geography than political affiliation.


Our challenge for the next several years will be to convince federal, state and local legislators, including the new president, that efficient irrigation is part of the solution to the water shortage problem; and that promoting efficient technology will do more to improve agricultural, urban and suburban water supply, and prevent agricultural drought disaster payments than encouraging growers, golf course superintendents, homeowners and others not to water. The IA has been, and will continue to be, actively working with both Congress and the administration to encourage the promotion of efficient irrigation through the next Farm Bill, EPA WaterSense program and other activities.


In 2008, we can also expect to see continued state and local activity related to watering restrictions in areas impacted by drought, as well as attempts to regulate what fertilizers and pesticides can be applied to landscapes.


No matter who is elected, we will also likely see at all levels of government an increased commitment to promote green buildings and environmentally friendly government purchasing. This movement will provide opportunities for the promotion of efficient irrigation products. For example, in late December, the administration released a proposal to give preference in government purchasing to green products, including water-efficient products recognized by the EPA WaterSense program.


 


 


Toro


Michael Baron, national specification and sales manager for water management products


L&I: What would you like irrigation professionals to know about your company as we head into 2008?


Baron: Toro is investing in its irrigation business and focusing on practical water management solutions that are customer-friendly. An operational framework based on quality, innovation and customer care drives Toro’s efforts to meet the needs of its distributors and their customers. Toro also supports the industry by actively participating in key associations such as the Irrigation Association and the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA) and contributing to their educational efforts.


 


L&I: What do you feel will be the biggest issue for irrigation professionals in 2008?


Baron: The biggest issue for irrigation professionals focused on the residential market will be dealing with the precipitous slow-down in new housing starts, irrational watering restrictions based on regional drought conditions, and new legislation focused on reducing water waste in outdoor landscapes. These factors will combine to make “business as usual” a recipe for adversity.


Contractors need to recognize that their purchasing power gives them leverage with distributors and manufacturers in a flat to down market. By intelligently partnering with selected distributors and manufacturers, learning from them about new trends and technologies and clearly differentiating themselves from their local competitors, contractors can improve productivity and learn to better distinguish themselves in the marketplace with technologies and services that deliver more efficient irrigation.


 


L&I What do you feel are the most significant trends of the past year in the irrigation industry, and will those trends continue in 2008?


Baron: The trend to improve landscape irrigation efficiency will continue in 2008. In part, this will be driven by the increasing cost of water. Water purveyors throughout the United States will continue to recognize that the water they supply is priced significantly below its replacement cost and they will act to do something about it by adopting tiered-rate pricing structures and/or establishing water budgets for large landscape water users. The rising cost of energy embedded in treating and pumping water will also be increasingly recognized. The Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act will drive municipalities to eliminate irrigation overspray and irrigation runoff to lessen pollution concerns, as well as water waste concerns. In California, for example, a federal court mandated reduction of water pumping from the Sacramento Delta to Southern California because the Delta Smelt was considered an endangered species.


 


L&I: Do you think the 2008 presidential election will have an impact on the irrigation industry? If so, how?


Baron: Traditionally, interest rates have been managed lower during presidential election years for political reasons. If 2008 follows previous election years, the housing problems will be somewhat mitigated by Federal Reserve easing, and this will keep the bottom from falling out of the housing market. In addition, border enforcement will continue to increase, and this will make labor issues for landscape installation and maintenance contractors more problematic. Keeping current employees happy and productive will take on greater significance because of this.


 


L&I: Who would you nominate for irrigation industry professional of the year? Why?


Baron: I nominate Warren Gorowitz of Ewing Irrigation. He is a knowledgeable and respected irrigation industry representative who participates at local, regional and national levels when it comes to water conservation and promoting more efficient landscape irrigation. He is a board member of the Alliance For Water Efficiency; has participated in the development of the new California Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance; has participated in multiple California Urban Water Conservation Council stakeholder meetings; and is a member of the CLCA Resource Management Committee, which developed and introduced the CLCA Water Management Certification Program.


 


L&I: What is your boldest prediction for 2008?


Baron: The economy will be more resilient than expected.


 


L&I: What other piece of advice would you give to irrigation professionals in 2008?


Baron: Stay informed about new irrigation technologies and proactively install them on at least a few jobs in order to obtain first-hand experience. It will only be a matter of time before an opportunity presents itself where this first-hand knowledge and experience will more than pay for itself.


 


 


Storm Manufacturing Group — maker of the Superior, Buckner and Kingston brands


Mike Ray, vice president of sales and marketing for Strom Manufacturing Group


L&I: What would you like irrigation professionals to know about your company as we head into 2008?


Ray: Storm Manufacturing Group is committed to developing and providing high-quality irrigation products that allow end users to become better stewards of our most precious commodity — water.


This year we will be introducing the Sterling ET with Flow Control, a specialized irrigation controller that disburses the correct amount of water needed, without over or under watering. It is capable of working with five types of data sources that monitor the weather conditions and adjusts the watering schedule appropriately. This model is compatible with Water2Save’s wireless communication service that updates the controller by using cellular technology.


 


L&I: What do you feel will be the biggest issue for irrigation professionals in 2008?


Ray: In 2008, the biggest issues for most irrigation professionals will be water management and the decline of new residential real estate development. To address water management issues, contractors and other irrigation professionals should seek products and services that focus on reducing water usage. At the same time, manufacturers should focus on developing more innovative water-saving products and making the existing products affordable for all to utilize.


As we enter 2008, the residential real estate industry will continue to impact the sales market of our industry. With less and less demand for residential products, the industry will need to shift more toward commercial markets to sustain itself.


 


L&I: What do you feel are the most significant trends of the past year in the irrigation industry, and will those trends continue in 2008?


Ray: Over the past year, the most significant trend in our industry has been “Smart” irrigation. Almost every manufacturer in the industry has introduced a Smart product or is in the process of developing one. In 2008, we expect the continued evolution of Smart products and services focused on water management.


 


L&I: What is your boldest prediction for 2008?


Ray: The economic conditions of the industry will require companies to compete on quality and customer service. With so many similar products on the market, the largest differentiator will be quality and service. The companies that excel in both will appeal to consumers more.


 


L&I: What other piece of advice would you give irrigation professionals in 2008?


Ray: Over the next year, our industry should be aware of the environmental issues that affect our county. It will take a collaborative effort to solve these issues.


 


 


Complete Landsculpture


Chris Strempek, founder


L&I: What would you like landscape professionals to know about you or your company as we head into 2008?


Strempek:


* We have revamped and redefined our goals and objectives to focus on recruiting, retaining and developing “A player” employees.


* We’re getting ready to move into our new headquarters.


* We are integrating the latest presentation technology into our business including Web conferencing.


* Complete Landsculpture is also increasing its focus and awareness on “green-friendly” solutions, including water conservation technology and techniques like “Smart” irrigation systems.


 


L&I: What do you feel will be the biggest issue for landscape professionals in 2008?


Strempek: A challenge the industry is facing as a whole is a potential labor shortage prompted by increased labor law enforcement. A greater knowledge and understanding of the laws related to our industry — including H2B work visas to help legalize immigrant status — is critical.


 


L&I: What do you feel are the most significant trends of the past year in the landscape industry and will those trends continue in 2008?


Strempek: Hardscapes are on the rise, including expanded outdoor living options such as fireplaces, patios and outdoor kitchens. We will see this trend continue in 2008.


 


L&I: Do you think the 2008 presidential election will have an impact on the landscape industry? If so, how?


Strempek: Typically, election years do create growth in the economy, which will benefit the landscape industry.


 


L&I: Who would you nominate for landscape industry professional of the year? Why?


Strempek: I would like to co-nominate Dr. Milt Engelke and Dr. Frank Gilstrap of Texas A&M for their progressive goals and objectives in redeveloping the campus with creative, sustainable green solutions.


 


L&I: What other piece of advice would you give to landscape professionals in 2008?


Strempek: Have a concrete business plan in moving forward.


 

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