Cultivating a Better Environment for the Future
The below questions were asked in a survey as part of a recent greenhouse floriculture state-of-the-industry report. Industry leaders were asked to answer questions about the “state of things” from their perspective. I feel that the five questions asked are applicable to all industries. I have adjusted the below responses provided by Denise Godfrey of Olive Hill Greenhouses to better reflect the way I personally feel about the state of the erosion and sediment control industry. I believe we should be asking ourselves and our industry these very questions. What do you think?
Q: How would you describe the state of the erosion and sediment control industry today?
A: Like the rest of the economic sectors, we are suffering from decreased demand. We hope to maintain during this uncertainty by looking at old and new ideas and technology; by relying more on relationships and working together with fellow contractors, suppliers and customers to better define and react to what is happening; by taking advantage of opportunities; and by maintaining a positive outlook in order to overcome adversity and persevere.
Q: Has our industry entered a new era or paradigm shift?
A: We no longer protect the environment in a vacuum. Construction and engineering design are in the forefront with global warming and the new EPA regulations to decrease pollution in our waterways. The public is having more and more influence on how we protect the environment. We have to defend our choices of what BMP material we use, what installation practices we employ, where we buy our material, and how well our erosion control designs travel in terms of sustainability and impacts to the environment.
Q: Has there been a changing of the guard in industry leadership?
A: I am thinking it is not exactly a changing of the guard; but rather, there are more reinforcements to fight individual challenges to our multifront battle. When I think about leaders in our industry, I think of the volunteers on chapter boards and committees that devote precious time to make sure members are kept informed on new ideas for our environment.
In order to be successful in the future, the industry must have all types of leaders employing different techniques and strategies to engage with environmental groups, legislators, the general public, and young students. Leaders need to communicate our accomplishments, goals, and aspirations to get them excited about the IECA community and to help them recognize the importance of our industry. Our success is more tightly tied to their perceptions and their willingness to help us thrive.
Q: What are the greatest challenges IECA members are facing today?
A: We are fighting a multifront battle. On the sales front, IECA members are working to identify how the demands of their customer bases are changing. They are looking for assistance from their suppliers to optimize the quantities and installation methods to meet this changing demand, and they are evaluating new and old ideas to better interface with their customers to help them solve environmental issues and to be more successful.
On the general operations front, IECA members are concerned with accumulating enough capital to make improvements that will satisfy environmental regulations (clean water and clean air), as well as keeping up maintenance schedules for existing infrastructure.
On the installation side, IECA members are making adjustments to BMP practices and what is used to better understand environmental influences like water, wind, and manmade influences to reduce costs, as well as to reduce pollution impact to our surroundings.
The business climate may be further impacted by legislative agendas, consumer confidence, and the public’s shortsighted desires. We must allocate some resources toward activism and education to better shape our future.
With so many challenges in this depressed economy, it has given more clarity to who we are, what we need, and where we want to be. Through these times, we determine the intensity of our desire to engage and to strategically mobilize our resources in order to persevere.
Q: What are the greatest opportunities for IECA members to build their business?
A: These last years, the public was in a ravenous, delusional state, indulging itself on “unlimited” resources. Then, it rudely awoke to a new reality in which the security of employment, investments, and the ability to provide for the family was called into question.
Visibly shaken, they are intensely seeking answers to redefine this new reality of limited resources and diversity of needs, yet they desire a coherent solution. Material needs are being differentiated from wants, and each is evaluated for its potential return on investment.
While we perceive ourselves to be differentiated from a commodity, it is in these times we keep falling into the definition of a commodity. We need to change our own perceptions of what we do. We are not just sediment and erosion control professionals for construction and natural habitat sites; but rather, we provide the service of cultivating better environments for our children and generations to come. We need to work harder to get out of the indulgent “want” category and into satisfying our “need” to be around nature and natural things—our “need” for a healthy, productive, and creative environment for our children to grow.
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