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Welcome to 2014 and the 17th year of publication for LC/DBM!
George Schmok, Publisher

By all indications, 2014 is poised to be a better year for those of us in the construction industry as, over the last half of 2013, housing permits, starts, builders' confidence and sales all showed signs of life. Sure there was a lot of turmoil in D.C. and the politics of the nation kept everyone second-guessing, but now that the inventory of underwater housing has been reduced, builders are starting to see the 'light of profit' in new housing and with that are increasingly anxious to begin to build again.

That said, 2014 will be one of those years that will have an impact on just about everyone. As such, here's some of the issues lying ahead that will definitely impact the landscape development industry . . .

Immigration Reform:
Immigration reform is going to be a hot topic throughout this year, as it seems so many think something has to be done before the elections. I'm not sure if that sentiment is because many see a huge change in Congress after the elections but if a more conservative Congress is elected, more focus will be put on getting Americans to work as opposed to getting more immigrants to fill in the labor force.

In my humble opinion, I find it hard to understand how tens of millions of Americans are out of work but we still need to import laborers to fill all the open seasonal positions?!?

I've said it before, but when will the landscape associations unite in a campaign to legitimize the landscape industry as an honorable profession? Is it really so hard to train someone to water plants, move trees, mow lawns or maintain flower beds, that unemployed Americans couldn't be trained to do it? And if the push is to hire legitimate workers for respectable wages, then wouldn't that, if offered in a very public way, be something that might attract potential hires already here?

I know . . . Everyone who wants to legitimize those who are here illegally will call me all kinds of names, but frankly my dear . . . I don't give a damn. I support America and Americans first. Everyone else can wait in line like the rest of us (from every nation around the world) did.

Health Care:
Health care is going to be the biggest issue for all of us across the country and it ties into immigration in that if we import workers to work full-time, those workers will have to be given health insurance by the employer. So first of all, a lot of landscape companies are going to be cutting hours to 30 or less, because adding health insurance for a bunch of healthy youths is not only, in most cases, unnecessary, but in low margin businesses like landscape maintenance, the cost will be prohibitive.

Now, in my humble opinion and as one who has always offered health insurance to every full-time employee, I think every employer should offer health insurance to the full-time staff and I think it is a negative that so many employers do not.

The problem in the landscape industry is that there is so little enforcement of immigration laws that legitimate employers, offering solid benefits, cannot compete with all of the illegals out there who work and hire under the radar. Actually, this would be a great place for the unions to step in. Unfortunately the unions are so closely tied to the immigration reform legislators, that they can't do the one thing that would really help their cause. This is also an arena where strong industry associations could turn the tide and further help to legitimize the industry.

The Elections:
The coming elections are going to dominate the news for the next 10 months. Immigration, healthcare, the national debt, et al. will be subjects that, because of the intensity of the debates, will add to the instability of the economy. While this instability and debate will keep the economy moving at a cautious rate, it is also essential to the country and is in fact, about as American as you can get . . .

So have a great 2014 and get involved in the conversation. We here at LC/DBM, welcome your opinions and look forward to being a vehicle that allows members of the landscape industry to be heard. The future is up to you . . .

God Bless . . .

George Schmok, Publisher

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