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Idaho Landscape Improving

Idaho labor officials report they are seeing modest recovery in the state's landscaping and nursery businesses, another sign the economy may be rebounding and positive news for an industry that shed nearly one-third of its jobs during the recession.

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Idaho Department of Labor Economist Will Jenson said the number of lawn and garden businesses has started to creep upward for the first time since 2007, though for now mainly in south central and southeastern Idaho.

For people like Mike Blickenstaff, owner of Greenhurst Nursery & Garden in Nampa, even the slightest sign of change is welcome after suffering through what he calls the worst economic slowdown in his 40 years in the business.

''We have seen a slight increase over last year,'' Blickenstaff told the Idaho Business Review. ''But I would not say it's been a big turnaround.''

In 2007, Idaho had more than 7,100 lawn and garden jobs, according to the state Department of Labor. By 2010, it had 5,000, with most losses in south central Idaho. Landscape architect services took the largest hit, followed by the wholesalers who supply flower and nursery businesses.

While overall Idaho industries only saw employment drop 8 percent, construction lost about 40 percent of its jobs. Gardening and landscaping is closely related to the construction industry.

''We saw a lot of landscapers, for sure, disappear,'' Blickenstaff said. ''I've never seen anything quite this severe.''

In response to the long downturn, Blickenstaff, who has owned Greenhurst for 38 years, eliminated all overtime for employees and cut an estimated 20 percent of his jobs.

Like many others in the industry, Blickenstaff also cut back on retail inventory.

Yet despite some positive signs and an uptick in sales, owners are still taking a cautious approach and holding off bolstering their stock of plants, planters and other inventory to 2007 levels.

''People seem more willing to spend money,'' said Crickett Rudd, a horticulturist at the 35-year-old FarWest Landscape and Garden in Boise. ''We've already had to reorder.''

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December 8, 2019, 8:47 am PDT

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