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Iowa’s green industry is growing -- the economy

Iowa's green industry grows economy

As Iowans open their wallets and make plans for their lawns and landscapes, it’s no wonder that Iowa’s green industry -- ornamental horticulture -- is the fastest growing segment of the state’s agriculture industry. According to a newly released ISU Extension survey, the estimated value of sales and services directly related to Iowa’s green industry in 2004 was $311.5 million. Add the allied sectors associated with the industry, and the economic impact climbs to $538.2 million.

The findings were published in the October-December 2007 issue of the research journal HortTechnology. Extension specialists and ISU faculty Cynthia Haynes, Ann Marie VanDerZanden and Jeffery K. Iles authored the study. The researchers surveyed Iowans in wholesale and retail greenhouses, nurseries and garden centers, as well as florists, arborists and landscape designers and contractors. They gathered information on the scope, scale and business climate of the industry in Iowa.

Most survey respondents expect their business to grow in employment, annual gross payroll and sales, and total annual expenses by 2010. Size and type of businesses varied, Haynes said, but most had only one location, were family-owned and had been in business less than six years.

“Respondents participating in our study were generally optimistic and identified only a few factors that could limit the success of their businesses,” Haynes said. Two of those factors — the availability of skilled labor and capital — also are limitations in states with larger green industries than Iowa.

Most of the respondents felt they were much stronger than their competitors in customer perception of product quality and service and ability to meet customer needs, Haynes said. “Promoting and enhancing these strengths should help them compete with big box retailers.”

Iowa’s green industry provides more than 11,000 jobs. Haynes and her colleagues plan to use this preliminary research to create further educational programming and professional development opportunities to address industry needs. Building the skills of the workforce will help position Iowa’s green industry for further expansion, she said.

This article appeared in April 2008 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter