Industry Outlook
Photo provided by NALP

Industry Outlook 2022

For our annual industry outlook, we recently asked the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) and the Irrigation Association (IA) to weigh in on the state of the landscape and irrigation industries (respectively). Their responses are as follows:

Britt Wood, CEO, National Association of Landscape Professionals

Landscape Business (LB): What would you like landscape industry professionals to know about NALP as we head into 2022?

Wood: NALP is committed to our members and industry. Our membership is growing. We are laser-focused on protecting the industry through our government affairs work and promoting the positive impacts that landscape professionals have on our environments.

We also help companies level up through training opportunities, including our Landscape Management Certificate Courses and Landscape Industry Certified credentials (also available in Spanish), Landscape Technician Bootcamp, OSHA 10-Hour Course for the Landscape Industry, and more.

LB: What are the biggest challenges the landscape industry faces, and what are the keys to overcoming those challenges?

Wood: The industry continues to face policy and regulatory challenges at the local, state, and federal levels, from pesticide bans to limitations on the H-2B program to gas-powered equipment bans and more. NALP’s government affairs team works every day to protect landscape businesses so they can do the important work of caring for America’s green spaces.

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NALP has launched a national advocacy platform called Voices for Health Green Spaces (www.greenspacevoices.org) to build a coalition of industry, customers, and stakeholders willing to advocate for managed landscapes. Everyone in the industry is encouraged to sign up for free, and work together to support the industry.

LB: What do you feel are the most significant industry trends of the past year?

Wood: Outdoor living spaces and pools continue to be in high demand. Commercial design-build and maintenance have also picked up since the pandemic slump as more businesses are turning over and looking for new ways to attract tenants and customers.

Undoubtedly, supply chain shortages at every level, from plant material to hardscape materials to vehicles and equipment, have been a trend – and a very unwelcome one. That, coupled with customers who are more demanding, makes customer service strategies and optimizing operations so important.

LB: What areas of advancement in the industry are you most pleased with, and which areas do you think need to improve?

Wood: There continues to be significant technology advances in software, drone technology, robotics, and autonomous equipment that help industry companies work faster and smarter.

However, workforce issues continue to be a challenge. Through NALP’s workforce efforts, we continue to find ways to solve industry workforce shortages, including strategies to attract a more diverse workforce. For example, a recent study by NALP’s Foundation found that only 8% of the industry’s jobs are filled by women, compared to 47% in the force at large, meaning there are huge opportunities to bring more women into the industry. Our Women in Landscape Network is a big part of the conversation around solutions to those challenges.

LB: What should our readers know about the new ELEVATE Conference and Expo?

Wood: NALP’s new national conference and expo – ELEVATE – is designed for management-level landscape and lawn care professionals with content from industry disruptors, lessons from successful companies outside our industry, insights from icons, and a look at the future.

The conference is created by and for landscape and lawn care professionals to inspire companies to excellence through connections with the top professionals and suppliers in the industry. Taking place the first year, September 18-21, 2022, at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Conference Center, in Orlando, Fla., the conference, expo, education, networking are all in one spectacular location. In addition, ELEVATE will be in Dallas in 2023, Charlotte in 2024, and Phoenix in 2025. And, beginning in 2024, ELEVATE will take place at the beginning of November.

LB: What is your overall outlook for 2022?

Wood: We expect there will continue to be an extremely high demand for landscape design-build, lawn care, and maintenance services – just as there has been since the pandemic started. At the same time, the competition to find employees is fierce, and increasing costs for just about everything, plus supply chain shortages, will make it a profitable but challenging year for most companies. However, many landscape owners are entrepreneurs and are good at adapting to challenges.

Irrigation Association

Landscape Business (LB): What would you like landscape irrigation professionals to know about the Irrigation Association as we head into 2022?

Irrigation Association (IA): The Irrigation Association works alongside irrigation professionals and the industry to promote efficient irrigation technologies, products, practices and services. For landscape irrigation professionals, the IA is excited to offer new and comprehensive content and information specifically for landscape irrigation and lighting contractors through its new Irrigation & Lighting magazine and website. The IA is also welcoming new leadership in 2022 with Natasha Rankin joining the staff as the new CEO. Watch the IA’s website for new opportunities coming in 2022 to grow your knowledge in the industry, strengthen your business and network with peers.

LB: What are the biggest challenges the landscape irrigation industry faces, and what are the keys to overcoming those challenges?

IA: The biggest challenge to the landscape irrigation industry is to continue to find ways to be responsible stewards of one of our most important natural resources — water. The drought conditions in the western United States in 2021 further illustrated that challenge. The irrigation industry is focused on developing new technologies, products and methods to ensure that irrigation is as efficient and sustainable as possible. Through technologies such as controllers, the irrigation industry has emerged as a leader in facing the challenge of protecting natural resources through efficient use of irrigation. The IA is also focused on ensuring the industry has the most knowledgeable and educated workforce to design, install and maintain efficient irrigation systems.

LB: What do you feel are the most significant industry trends of the past year?

IA: States across the country, especially those in drought-prone areas, have continued to focus on which products allow for the most efficient use of water. Nine states now require only pressure regulating spray sprinkler bodies be used in irrigation systems, and I think we can expect this trend to continue into 2022. As federal, state and local governments continue to increase focus on water resources, we — as an industry — must get ahead of this by being the best stewards possible.

Homeowners are also spending more time outside than ever before and are developing outdoor living spaces to match that lifestyle. Irrigation professionals are key to designing an area with a thriving landscape that uses water responsibly, even in regions that don’t currently face water scarcity. Professionals who find ways to incorporate new technologies that allow them to be active water managers will give their customers the best opportunities for both water and cost efficiency going forward.

LB: What areas of advancement in the industry are you most pleased with, and which areas do you think need to improve?

IA: Landscape and irrigation contractors have become knowledgeable and influential in advocating for their customers to embrace new technologies and practices that have helped change the way irrigation is managed and executed. Efficiency and water resource management have taken a front row seat in discussions. The IA’s work with EPA’s WaterSense program has highlighted how industry can work closely with public partners to ensure that the most efficient products are available that consumers can trust. The challenge is to continue to promote the value and importance of irrigated landscapes to ensure that our industry remains robust and vital in today’s economy.

LB: What is your overall outlook for 2022?

IA: The future is bright for those involved in landscape irrigation. The COVID-19 pandemic heightened consumer interest in the landscape area around them. This has led to a boom for irrigation and lighting contractors, as well as all those involved in the manufacture and distribution of irrigation equipment. The Irrigation Association is excited about the future ahead and will continue to advocate for its members, work to support the future workforce and provide industry-leading professional development opportunities for all levels of irrigation professionals.