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State Turf, Landscape Industry Growing
As the state's population continues to grow, more and more Georgians are becoming homeowners, and bankers aren't the only ones prospering. The population boom is a driving force behind the growth of Georgia's turf and landscape industry.

"One of the beneficiaries of the 15 percent population growth (1.16 million people) in Georgia between 1990 and 1998 has been the turf grass and landscape industry," said Gil Landry, a turf grass specialist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"This industry is a large component of the larger urban agriculture industry that has evolved in Georgia," Landry said.

Turf, Landscape Firms Surveyed

To document the economic size and importance of the industry, Landry and UGA economist Wojciech Florkowski surveyed turf and landscape firms. Responses to the 1999 survey were based on the 1998 business year.

The two surveyed 245 firms in cooperation with the Metropolitan Atlanta Landscape and Turf Association (MALTA), the Georgia Turfgrass Association (GTA), Georgia Turfgrass Foundation Trust (GTFT) and Georgia Green Industry Association (GGIA).

The survey showed that the industry is relatively young, with 61 percent of the companies less than 11 years old. "This indicates that the industry has grown rapidly," Landry said.

Big Business

Most of these firms earn more than $200,000 per year, with 28 percent reporting revenues of more than $1 million. Most (58 percent) also spent more than $100,000 on labor.

"The majority of firms (54 percent) employed at least six people full-time year-round," Florkowski said. "Nearly half (49 percent) reported a similar level of seasonal employment."

Firms with more than 10 employees were more likely to hire help permanently rather than seasonally. In 7 percent of the firms, labor expenditures exceeded $1 million.

With about 5,000 year-round or seasonal employees and more than 500 part-time workers, the surveyed firms' labor bill approached $60 million.

Big Effect on Economy

"This level of spending has a considerable effect on Georgia's economy," Florkowski said. "This is primarily a service industry, and labor costs affect profitability, pricing strategies and competitiveness."

Other survey results:

  • More than 40 percent of the firms spent more than $50,000 on plant material, and nearly another 30 percent spent at least $10,000.
  • The firms spent $5.85 million on sod, with about 60 percent spending more than $10,000.
  • About 75 percent spent less than $5,000 a year on pesticides, most of that to control weeds.
  • The second most often used chemicals were insecticides. Landry credits this to the fight against fire ants.
  • The average firm services 100 acres, with 40 percent getting more than three-fourths of their revenue from home accounts.
"The prolonged drought that began in 1998 will likely have immediate and negative effects on industry revenues and profits," Landry said. "However, assuming the general economic climate continues to be favorable and real incomes keep growing, the demand for services may actually increase."

A complete report on the survey, "An Economic Profile of the Professional Turfgrass and Landscape Industry in Georgia," can be viewed and downloaded at www.ces.uga.edu/ pubs/PDF/RR672.pdf.

(Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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