We’d love to claim that about the whole of the green industry, wouldn’t we? Some segments and companies are up, some are steady, a few are struggling. All in all, we’re hearing some pretty good things, and as good news tends to encourage good news, let’s run with it.

So, there’s good news from the American Society of Landscape Architects, which issued its quarterly business survey in May. The headline alone is encouraging: “Survey finds solid economic ground for landscape architecture firms; billable hours, hiring and inquiries for new work all jump.” We like that.

Reporting on business for the first quarter of this year, ASLA member firms were, for the most part, delightfully positive. A significant majority – 82.02 percent! – claimed “stable to significantly higher billable hours”; this is an increase from 74.67 percent the previous quarter. An impressive 85.34 percent of respondents reported stable to significantly higher inquiries for new work – that figure is up nearly 10 percent.

As for job opportunities, we see the trend continuing. More than half of firms with five to nine employees plan to hire both experienced and entry-level LAs, and in smaller firms, 61.54 percent reported plans to hire during the second quarter of this year. That’s up nearly 11 percent from the previous quarter.

If we look at the comparison year-to-year, we see that more than 80 percent reported stable to significantly higher billable hours, which is a slight uptick from last year. We’ll take it. Inquiries for new work dropped slightly from the same period last year, but that figure amounts to less than 1 percent. Remember, we’re talking about a challenging time of year. Is it a statistically significant decrease? Not really.

And there’s some interesting information about what clients are seeking from their professional landscape architects. The survey reached back a few years and resurrected questions about why clients pursue sustainable design techniques. Is this a “sustainable” – pun intended – trend? (Here’s where the difference between fad and trend comes in: Is something a fleeting craze, or does it last?)

ASLA’s survey found that the most popular reasons for sustainable landscape plans “remained virtually unchanged.” These reasons include:

  • meeting government requirements (54.79 percent)
  • saving money on utility or maintenance costs (40.96 percent)
  • reducing environmental harm (39.36 percent)
  • adding marketing cachet (31.91)

Comparing to the survey conducted nearly five years ago, a couple of the categories flip-flopped with each other, but hey. They’re still valid reasons, and clients are still very much interested.

With consumer confidence also up slightly, the outlook appears to be leaning to the positive. Gone are the boom days, and good riddance to them. Where there’s boom, there’s bust. Where there’s moderate and steady growth, we can find a bit of stability. What’s the saying? “Moderation in all things.”

That, and patience is a virtue.

Don’t forget to check out American Nurseryman’s Green Industry Guide, found at http://gig.amerinursery.com/gig/.