Enlisting the Domestic Workforce

I make it a point to read as many landscape magazines, newsletters and commentaries as I can from across the country and see that many today are talking about the limitations of H-2B and the lack of workers available as the landscape industry, and the economy as a whole, heats up. Now, with Spring in the air, the need to enhance your crew is more important than ever.

Over the past 10 years, LC/DBM has advocated for the National Association to encourage American Citizens to join the ranks in this most Honorable of Professions. Visit LandscapeOnline.com and find article #9930 to see one of the first commentaries on this subject and the numerous responses it generated from across the nation.

I’ve seen and heard comments like, “we need to increase the H-2B limits,” “you need to become less labor intensive,” and “nobody wants these jobs.” However, for most of the years I have been in this industry, very little was done to promote a healthy workforce from within our borders.

First of all, there is a huge group of Americans that are underemployed. No . . . I’m not talking race or immigration . . . I’m talking American males in the 20-24-year-old category. This is the largest segment of unemployed people across all races and the one segment that is most capable of doing the physical labor associated with landscape. This group is also willing to gain education and is the most easily influenced to begin a new career path
Over the years I’ve written about this issue many times and recieved a lot of kickback from (then) PLANET and also the Nurserymen’s Association (ANLA), with most of their comments focusing on bringing in a foreign workforce based on the age-old misconception that “nobody else wants these jobs.” To which I would reply . . . Why? Almost everyone I know in the industry loves the work and loves the job . . .

Fortunately, through the NALP Growing the Workforce Initiative, which was introduced in 2016 and has been gaining steam over the past year, the national association has taken a big step forward.

It’s great to see NALP taking a proactive stance, by stating, “The Industry Growth Initiative is changing perceptions and narratives about the industry through aggressive public relations efforts that will redefine our image, making this a sought-after field of employment.” Finally!

Now, though, it’s time for NALP to redouble their efforts and really start to push this agenda across all media and across all 50 states. Spring is upon us and work is piling up.

To learn more about the NALP Industry Growth Initiative or to get involved, you can visit their website: www.landscapeprofessionals.org and follow the menu link “Workforce”. Landscape is a noble and profitable profession. It’s great to see the national association finally stepping up and taking steps to make the landscape industry truly great again!

God Bless . . . And Happy Easter!
George Schmok, Publisher

As seen in LC/DBM magazine, March 2018.

Park Your Park as a Park!

Well, spring is in the air and that must mean you are reading the annual LASN “Parks” issue.

With that, here are a couple of things trending in the world of park development. Recently, the ASLA released a statement opposing the Trump Administration’s 2019 fiscal year budget proposal, because it “recommended cutting the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) by 98 percent from FY17 levels and zeroing out the state grants program.” This represents a potential $900 million savings for the gov’t, but a huge loss for park development across the country. Since a lot of the allocations are based on a given state’s population, this retreat in spending would affect states like California, New York and Illinois to a greater extent than other less populated states. While I am definitely for less government spending, this matter does warrant further review. To find out more you should visit:

And speaking of parks . . . I was recently down at San Diego’s Balboa Park and Museum Complex and found this ASLA Centennial Medallion recognizing the site as “a National Landmark for Outstanding Landscape Architecture.”

From the NRPA (National Recreation and Parks Association), I recently read a very entertaining piece on park trends that offered several interesting predictions, including a trend to renovate underground and otherwise abandoned facilities (like Seattle’s Battery Street Tunnel) into park spaces. Old train stations, subways, rail tunnels and more are all in play when it comes to this trend.

Another interesting prediction was that puppy waste could become fuel through “small-scale anaerobic digesters for parks. Patrons could deposit dog waste, which is composted to produce methane that is used to power park lighting.” (See page 120 of LASN March 2018.)

And also from the NRPA is a more somber prediction. Lack of housing is forcing cities to look hard for available real estate. Some parks are being replaced with high-rise or other population-dense developments. The NRPA is predicting this trend to grow in 2018, but offered a potential deterrent to this by “dedicating” land as park land. Apparently in New York, approving a conversion from a dedicated park to a different kind of development requires a 2/3 majority in the legislature and the change must also “comply with federal protections of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act” if the original park was built with those funds. (Although if Trump’s proposed budget changes kick in, this point would be somewhat moot for future developed parks.) I’m sure every state is a bit different, but if you can officially dedicate the land as a park it has a better chance of withstanding the onslaught of developers.

So, it appears that developing a park will not always be a walk in the park, but keeping an eye on legislation and working the system will definitely help to park the park as a park . . .

God bless and happy Easter . . .
George Schmok, Publisher

 As seen in LASN magazine, March 2018.

A Nation of Builders . . .

In listening to the State-of-the-Union address—and regardless of how you feel about Trump or how you feel about those who didn’t stand up to applaud a 12-year-old boy who decorated graves of veterans with American flags—there was one bipartisan moment that bodes well for landscape architects across the nation. That was when both sides stood up and applauded as Trump mentioned his plan to invest in infrastructure.

2 Big I 1 Credit Robert Reck
Large infrastructure projects like this Arizona interstate exchange featured on the January cover of LASN are not for everyone, but opportunity is going to present itself in the very near future, so now is a good time to brush up on the ins and outs of public works.

Back in 1991 when Congress passed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), followed by several other ‘TEA’ legislations, it helped take the United States out of the ’90-’91 recession and ushered in what is called “the longest period of growth in American history,” which was only briefly interrupted by the dot.com bubble and 9/11 in 2001 and basically lasted until 2008.

Again . . . Regardless of how you feel about the current administration, one thing is pretty well undeniable . . . Business and construction are solidly into positive territory. Now, with both parties eager to begin building or rebuilding infrastructure there is good reason to be even more excited about the immediate future of the landscape architectural profession as well.

That said, if you are a smaller shop, you’ll need to choose whether you want to be a part of the infrastructure rebuild or not. There will probably be plenty of peripheral projects, but to get into transportation or larger municipal projects, now would be a great time to scout out seminars and workshops designed to deal with these markets and start to shape your firm to deal with these kind of projects. 

Infrastructure isn’t for everyone, but with both political parties hot on the issue, there is definitely opportunity coming down the road . . .

Go get ’em and God bless . . .
George Schmok, Publisher

As seen in LASN magazine, February 2018, Commentary.

Landscape Associations . . . Addicted to Everything

The most recent issue of National Geographic magazine was titled “The Science of Addiction”. In the issue it talks about how the mind is flooded with dopamine at even the thought of certain drugs or activities. These chemical reactions makes the individual narrow their focus onto that one drug or activity, blotting out reason in the quest for more . . .
Almost every day I am seeing things out of landscape industry associations calling for more of this or that. Three recent items that come to mind were 1) we need to increase the H2B counts 2) we need to contact congress to add funding back into the EPA and 3) calls for more funding the Great Lakes conservation programs. Each item in itself seems to have merit. However . . . These are addictions that need to be overcome.
Do we really need more migrant workers, when 90+ million Americans are unemployed or out of the workforce? That’s ridiculous.  Do we need to spend more money saving spiders, mice and frogs when the country is $20 TRILLION in debt? Ludicrous.
Now is a time for the industry associations to be focusing on saving the American tax dollar, recruiting from within our citizenship and working on ways to expand our businesses without government intervention.
Today’s associations are too focused on lobbying, trying to get their piece of the tax dollar pie. Instead we need to see a shift to thinking about ways to use the means currently available, tapping into resources that we already have. Can’t we get donations from the Sierra Club or Go Fund Me to help keep the waters of the Great Lakes clean? Maybe a public awareness campaign funded by the ASLA? Can we get NALP to provide workforce training to inner city youths?
Currently too many associations are addicted to lobbying Congress for more, more more, when what they really need is to get into “spending” rehab and start programs with membership dues that tap into the resources at hand. The Landscape Industry is the original Green Industry. Maybe it can become the leader in showing the country how to do things outside the addiction of getting more, more, more from the deeply indebted American Taxpayer.

Streetscapes of the Future

Streetscapes of the Future

Welcome to the 2017 Streetscapes Issue. This annual issue has been a staple of LASN for many years, with all kinds of cool traffic flow, pedestrian-friendly, vendor-interactive designs coming across the boards.

We’ve seen many innovative elements like parklets, multifunctional streetlights, dark sky, bicycle security, traffic circles, signage, corner bumpouts, etc. But two things are coming down the pipe that will surely change the art of streetscape design and reshape the downtown experience. One is already making an impact and the other is just a few short years away.

Internet shopping is reducing the demand for onsite shopping across the nation, causing malls and downtowns to rethink the number and kinds of retailers they can support and how these outlets will interact with shoppers in the future.

The other is the driverless car, which most assuredly will be in full force within the next decade or so. Only time will tell the full impact this has, but several elements should be considered for any future downtown renovations. First on the list are parking and drop off zones. In the very near future you will call your car out of your garage, climb in and order it to take you downtown where it will drop you off in front of your destination, and then go find a place to park itself, waiting for your command to be picked up down the block and taken to the next destination. Cars won’t need space to open their doors when parking, as no one will be inside when the car is parked. Parking along the street might not even be necessary. Currently you look for the closest space to your destination, but in a few years, you’ll simply climb out of your vehicle and off it will go. In fact, you might even be able to send off your car to go and pick up a package at a retailer or pick up your groceries at the market while you stay at home or shop at different locations.

Elements that you are designing today to slow traffic, like circles and corner bump outs may also become unnecessary, as all traffic will be controlled in downtown zones. Traffic lanes can be much thinner as the human element is replaced with computerized precision. Drop off/pickup zones will be needed and valet parking will become a thing of the past . . . What, grandpa? You actually paid people to park your car?!?

So as you begin planning for a streetscape renovation or downtown revitalization that will occur a few years down the road (pun intended), consideration of future technology has never been so important to the success of that project. Who knows what new technology will shape our landscape, but these two elements will definitely have an impact in the not so distant future.

Landscape Architects Split 50/50 on Paris Climate Accord

Reader’s Opinions



On Thursday June 1, Trump officially announced the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Climate Accords. That same day, LASN magazine emailed a sampling of its readers for their opinions on the pull out, and asked them to state specific reasons for their positions. Trump stated it costs U.S. jobs and is an undue burden on American taxpayers.

The response was split almost exactly 50/50 for those in agreement and those opposed to the US pulling out of the agreement. About 80% of all respondents sited the need to protect the climate regardless of which side they took. Here is a compilation of the response from across the country. We have not identified the names of the senders, only their city and state, nor edited the comments, except for a couple uses of profanity.

Thank you for taking the time to respond to the question.

The comments were posted for this article:


Do you have any to add?