The U.S. environmental horticulture industry, or green industry, is comprised of wholesale nursery, greenhouse, turfgrass sod producers, landscape design, construction and maintenance firms, and wholesale and retail distribution firms such as garden centers, home stores, mass merchandisers with lawn/garden departments, brokers and rewholesale distribution centers, and allied trade suppliers of inputs to the industry.
The green industry has historically been a fast-growing segment of the U.S. economy. However, the industry has reached the mature stage of its life cycle and is now growing slowly or even declining in some segments (Hall, 2010). According to the data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (U.S. Department of Labor, 2015), employment in the principal sectors of the U.S. green industry reached a peak of 1.285 million jobs in 2007, then dropped sharply during the global recession of 2008–10. As of 2013, industry employment had recovered somewhat but had not yet returned to prerecession levels. Over the 2001–13 period, total employment in the industry declined by −0.4%, although this varied widely among specific industry sectors, with strong positive growth for landscaping services (+24.6%), but decreased for florists (−49.3%), landscape architectural services (−28.2%), lawn and garden equipment manufacturing (−20.8%), and nursery and floriculture production (−9.0%) (Fig. 1). Employment for most sectors increased during 2001–07, then declined during the recession of 2007–09, and recovered during 2011–13, but remained below the peak level in 2007. The only industry sector showing steadily downward trending employment was florists, consistent with the decreasing number of brick-and-mortar establishments. The number of business establishments in the green industry also declined during the recession, and has not recovered, in part due to consolidation and increasing concentration in the industry (Hall, 2010). The housing sector collapse during the recession revealed that the rate of industry growth was unsustainable.
Recognizing the limitations of existing data sources and the critical need for economic impact information, numerous state nursery and landscape industry organizations have sponsored economic impact studies for their respective states. For example, studies were conducted in Florida (Hodges et al., 2011a), Louisiana (Hinson et al., 2003), and Colorado (Thilmany et al., 2003). Stakeholders have found these studies to be useful in communicating the importance of the green industry to policymakers to gain assistance and resources, and in combating proposed legislation that would negatively impact the industry. However, direct comparison of these results across states is complicated because of differences in research methods used in these studies. For example, some states used mail, telephone, or personal interview surveys to collect primary data, whereas others relied on secondary data sources. Another important difference is the number and type of sectors that were included in each respective study, with some states including end users such as households, golf courses, and sports complexes, whereas others did not. Also, the regional economic models used to determine economic multipliers differed between studies. These factors point to the need to conduct a comprehensive national study that uses a common methodology to collect industry data and calculate associated economic contributions.
The first attempt to develop an internally consistent estimate of state and national economic contributions of the green industry was reported by Hall et al. (2006), with total national economic contributions of the industry in 2002 given as 1.96 million full-time and part-time jobs, $147.8 B in industry output, and $95.1 B in value added or GDP, expressed in 2004 dollars. In a follow-up study for 2007–08, the total national contributions of the industry were estimated at 1.95 million jobs, $175.26 B in industry output, and $107.16 B in GDP (Hodges et al., 2011b). The largest individual industry sectors in 2007–08 in terms of employment and GDP contributions were landscaping services (1,075,343 jobs, $50.3 B), nursery, and greenhouse production (436,462 jobs, $27.1 B), and building materials and garden equipment and supplies stores (190,839 jobs, $9.7 B). The top 10 individual states in terms of employment contributions were California (257,885 jobs), Florida (188,437), Texas (82,113), North Carolina (81,113), Ohio (79,707), Pennsylvania (75,604), New Jersey (67,993), Illinois (67,382), Georgia (66,042), and Virginia (58,677). The green industry represented 0.76% of U.S. GDP in 2008.
The objective of this paper is to update the previous estimates of the economic contributions of the green industry in 2013 at the national and state levels, by using a consistent set of nationwide data to enable reliable comparisons among U.S. states and regions. This information can be used to inform public policy and support efforts by industry stakeholders to communicate the importance of the industry.
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