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Green industry large and growing

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[DEC. 7, 2004]  URBANA -- The Illinois green industry -- a group of businesses, institutions and others who produce, maintain or sell plant material -- is large and growing, according to results from a University of Illinois follow-up survey conducted in 2003.

"The total combined product and service sector sales as well as end-user payrolls are estimated at $4.7 billion and represents plant product sales; landscape, lawn, arboriculture and interiorscape service receipts; and end-user payrolls paid to grounds and maintenance employees," said Gene Campbell, survey director.

The U of I conducted a similar survey in 1999 and found this total figure to be $3.9 billion, showing growth of nearly 20 percent, or 5 percent annually over the past four years.

"This steady growth rate occurred at a time when the general economy experienced a recession and slower growth rates, which I think is significant," he said.

Breaking down the figures more, product sector firms decreased in numbers between 1999 and 2003 by about 1 percent, while service sector firms increased by 13.8 percent. Overall, the number of product and service sector firms increased by 5.2 percent to nearly 9,500 businesses.

Total product and service sector sales increased by 21.8 percent from 1999 to 2003 with an annual, compound rate of increase of 5.1 percent. Payroll increased by 17.6 percent at an annual, compound rate of 4.1 percent. And work force increased by 7.2 percent for an annual, compound rate of 2.3 percent.

Between 1999 and 2003, total end-user payroll increased by 9.5 percent at an annual, compound rate of growth of 2.3 percent. And the total end-user work force increased by 0.8 percent for an annual, compound rate of 0.2 percent.

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Combining all three sectors, the average payroll per employee increased by 10.41 percent between 1999 and 2003.

"As measured by payroll, the largest green-industry employers were landscape construction, nurseries and garden centers, municipalities, and golf courses," Campbell said. "The biggest green-industry sales receipts were florists, landscape construction, and nurseries and garden centers."

Dave Bender of the Illinois Nurserymen's Association helped secure the state grant to conduct the follow-up study, and he was surprised by the growth numbers.

"The survey confirms that Illinois' green industry is growing," Bender said. "We were amazed by the figures, especially given 9/11 and the general economic sluggishness of the past few years. I think the survey shows that the green industry provides some economic stability to Illinois."

As a byproduct of developing the survey, "We have begun, as an industry, to work more closely together," Bender said. "We're an industry of many small associations each pursuing their own agenda, but I think we have a lot in common. I hope and expect that we will work together more in the future. And we plan to use the information in Springfield and Washington, D.C., to open doors."

The survey was funded, in part, by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, the University of Illinois and a coalition of green-industry professional associations.

[University of Illinois news release]

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