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“Green” Industry Larger Than Thought

PUYALLUP, Wash. — It generates more gross business income than the state’s railroads and more than the forestry and fishing industries combined.

It’s Washington’s landscape and nursery industry, known as the “Green” industry in landscaping circles.

The state’s landscape and nursery industry generated more than $842 million in retail sales of plants, tools, fertilizers and related products and services during 1996-97, according to the results of the most comprehensive survey to-date of the industry. Almost 45 percent was generated by multi-state retail operations.

Wholesale operations accounted for nearly $282 million in sales during the period, which is 13 percent higher than estimates published by the Washington Agricultural Statistics Service for farm gate value of nursery and greenhouse products.

The survey was conducted by Richard Carkner, an agricultural economist, and Riley Moore, a research associate at Washington State University’s Puyallup Research and Extension Center. They surveyed all wholesale and larger retail operations plus samples of the more than 8,000 holders of nursery licenses in the state.

“We’re representing an industry, yet no one had any idea how large it was,” said Steve McGonigal, executive director of the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association.

“A lot of public policymakers do not realize the economic importance of this industry, the number of people it employs or the amount of taxes it generates. In 1992, when Seattle had a water shortage, the first thing they did was cut off all lawn watering. That crushed our industry.”

The study did not encompass people who provide professional grounds maintenance because they are not required to hold a nursery license.

The economists found that the industry employs nearly 55,000 people during its seasonal peak, generates a payroll exceeding $232 million and sales tax revenue of $66.5 million.

The study was funded by the Washington State Department of Agriculture with money generated from nursery license fees.

Nursery and greenhouse products were the state’s eighth ranking agricultural commodity at the farm gate/wholesale level in 1997, according to the service. The latest survey would not change the ranking.

(Note to editors: For more information on the study, contact Dr. Richard Carkner at 253/445-4549. Steve McGonigal can be reached at 253/863-4482.)

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