LM 2019 Industry Pulse: A look to the future

December 23, 2019 -  By
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Crews working on a project (Photo: Carolina Colorscapes)

Many landscape professionals are optimistic about the work that 2020 will bring. (Photo: Carolina Colorscapes)

While no one can predict the future for certain, many green industry professionals maintain a sense of optimism when looking ahead to 2020, according to the Industry Pulse survey.

For example, on average, many survey respondents said they expect revenue to be up in 2020.

“The market is good, and people are spending money,” says Jason Bishop, regional manager of KingGreen, a turf and ornamental care company near Atlanta. “If there’s a recession, that’s going to hit us hard, but we’re not expecting a recession, so hopefully we stay on the upward trend that we’re on now.”

Kent Collins, owner of Clipper Landscaping, a commercial and residential property maintenance firm in Portsmouth, N.H., agrees.

Photo: Jason Bishop

Photo: Jason Bishop

“(The future) is promising,” Collins says. “I think 2019 was a pretty productive year, and I expect 2020 to be equally productive, if not more.”

Clues to what the future holds

Bishop, Collins and Mark McGrady, owner of Carolina Colorscapes, a specialty seasonal color provider in Lexington, S.C., all point to the booming housing markets in their areas as an indicator of continued success for 2020.

“When we drive around, we see all these new neighborhoods pop up,” Bishop says. “The new housing market in our area is typically $300,000 and up. That tells us that the new homeowners are probably going to be looking for the help we can provide.”

McGrady acknowledges, “There could always be a slowdown on housing, but I don’t foresee that, especially not in my area. They’re building new developments, shopping centers and schools as fast as they can.”

Photo: Jedd Narsavage

Photo: Jedd Narsavage

Collins adds that the millennials who are moving into those homes tend to call on his company for service.

“The younger generation doesn’t seem to be mowing their own lawns as much,” he says. “They seem to be more of the people who request a (maintenance) service.”

Another factor that may influence the 2020 outlook is the upcoming election, according to McGrady. However, he says he doesn’t expect it to have a huge bearing on the economy, at least not until the fourth quarter of 2020.

In case an economic downturn is in the cards, companies such as Greensweep in Burtonsville, Md., will focus on growing their maintenance division in 2020.

“We know the bubble is going to pop at some point,” says Kyle Narsavage, owner of Greensweep, which provides primarily maintenance and some design/build services to an 80 percent commercial, 20 percent residential clientele. “The maintenance is our bread and butter, and that’s what we’re going to stick with because that will ride through any economy. People are always going to try and take care of their properties. Enhancements and design/build will falter if the economy goes … but the grass is always going to grow.”

Loader and Greensweep truck (Photo: Greensweep)

New housing and construction projects in many areas indicate a strong 2020 for landscapers. (Photo: Greensweep)

Jedd Narsavage, vice president of design and development for Greensweep, adds that the company tries not to fret too much over how external factors may influence the economy because they’re out of his control.

“What we can control are the processes we put in place, the people we have, the confidence we have in those people and the balance in our service mix,” he says. “From there, we’re confident that we’re organized in such a way that we can ride out any highs and lows.”

Future challenges

Often, with more money comes more (labor) problems. As the workload continues to mount, companies say they expect to struggle with finding a quality workforce to take on the new jobs. (See more about this in the labor section on page S10.)

Photo: Kyle Narsavage

Photo: Kyle Narsavage

For example, according to the survey results, many respondents cited finding labor, hiring and retention as items they’d like to improve in their operations.

“Finding people who want to start on the ground and work their way up is difficult,” Bishop says. “It’s getting qualified people who understand that lawn care isn’t always 9-5. Unfortunately, we’re expecting to see that trend continue in 2020.”

Other survey respondents said that in 2020 they would like to improve marketing, job selection and estimation, efficiency and profitability.

What is your economic outlook for 2020?

Here are some unattributed responses from survey respondents.

“Very favorable. Home building may slow, but commercial and public sector clients should have adequate growth or increased tax base to keep markets strong.”

“Expecting a recession.”

“It’s probably going to be a good year. We saw an increase in client acquisition in 2019, and we expect to see an increase in 2020.”

“Strong. While there may be a correction in the economy, our irrigation maintenance and upgrade business continue to grow — mainly because irrigation is such a needed item, business and residents have already invested in their sprinklers and continue to be willing to invest in maintaining and making them more efficient.”

Photo: Mark McGrady

Photo: Mark McGrady

“Good. Lots of opportunity and with a good core of people, it’s looking good.”

“Our area is experiencing tremendous growth. Building starts continue to rise along with revitalization in existing areas.”

“We think it’s going to be a learning year for new employees, but we have a lot of commercial work already on the books for 2020.”

“I’m not sure since there will be an election. Anything could happen.”

“Looks good, but we’re limited by the labor shortage.”

“I’m cautiously optimistic anticipating an eventual down cycle.”

“Tempered growth. Main factor is the election, but our local market is very stable.”

“My business is in an upswing, but staffing for lawn workers is holding us back.”

“We believe 2020 will continue to exceed 2019.”

Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's associate editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

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