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A Ten-Year Review of the Southeast U.S. Green Industry, Part I: Labor and Firm Characteristics

Alicia Rihn, Amy Fulcher and Hayk Khachatryan

No 313531, Extension Reports from University of Tennessee, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

Abstract: The green industry is a vibrant part of Tennessee’s agricultural economy, directly contributing $965 million annually to the state’s economy, $23.5 million in annual state and local taxes, and over 13,000 jobs (Jensen et al., 2020). In recent years, labor shortages have become more pronounced nationally and within the state of Tennessee (Velandia et al., 2021). Tennessee growers report that hiring locally and retaining locally hired employees is challenging, and that labor-related challenges are on the increase. In 2018, nearly 80 percent of nurseries indicated that labor is their greatest hurdle, and over 50 percent stated the lack of qualified labor limited their ability to hire additional employees (McClellan, 2018). Alongside the issue of an uncertain and inadequate labor force is the increasing demand for nursery and landscape products and services. Nationally, the industry demonstrated a 0.6 percent annual growth from 2015 to 2019, which is expected to increase 1.8 percent annually through 2025 (Daly, 2021). Just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Tennessee green industry anticipated expanding production by 16.5 percent over the next five years (Jensen et al., 2020). With the development of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to dramatically increased interest in home gardening, the green industry experienced an increase in national sales, with 47 percent of participating nurseries and 87 percent of garden centers reporting an increase in sales in 2020 relative to 2019 (Daly, 2021; Nursery Management, 2020). Southeastern U.S. households reported an increase in plant purchases of 3.4 percent and landscaping purchases by 4.6 percent from 2019 to 2020 (Campbell, Rihn, and Campbell, 2021). Given the increase in demand, green industry firms will likely increase production, which will require more labor. In an effort to help the green industry better understand employment issues, related trends and to better position their businesses for the future, a two-part series titled “A Ten-Year Review of the Southeast U.S Green Industry” was developed. In “Part I: Labor and Firm Characteristics” annual sales, product types and workforce demographics are covered for three sub-samples, including: national, a select geographical area in the southeast U.S. (hereafter termed “five-state region” which includes Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee), and the state of Tennessee. In the companion publication, “A Ten-Year Review of the Southeast U.S. Green Industry, Part 2: Addressing Labor Shortages and Internal and External Factors Affecting Businesses Strategies,” we discuss specific strategies that businesses are using to address the labor shortage. In Part 2, we also discuss the importance of other factors and issues that are also weighing on business decisions that affect the future sustainability of the green industry.

Keywords: Agribusiness (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Pages: 9
Date: 2021-09-10
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-env and nep-isf
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DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.313531

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