It’s been five years since the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) and the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA) merged to form the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET). Mergers are never easy. They often present unique challenges that take time to overcome. Looking back five years, we’ve been through all the pain of change. It’s time to realize what has been accomplished and celebrate what we’ve done. PLANET is better and stronger than either legacy association was standing by itself. The guiding vision has been to be the voice of the green industry, and our voice has become louder.
Our association has remained productive throughout all the disruption, and if the next five years are anything like the first, PLANET members and the industry have a lot to look forward to. In five short years, PLANET has consolidated its certification program and created a new brand that can be widely promoted and recognized. Both the Safety Training Achieves Remarkable Success (STARS) Safe Company Program and Day of Service were started and have been well received by PLANET members and the industry alike, creating awareness about two important business fundamentals: operating in a safe manner and giving back to the community.
The successful Trailblazers program, designed as another important way for industry veterans to share their best practices, has expanded to include a Trailblazers On Call component. Now, volunteers are available to answer member questions by phone, adding immediacy to expediency. The specialty group format has evolved, allowing PLANET members to have the best of both worlds — taking advantage of the resources afforded by a large group while retaining the important identity provided by smaller groups of like-minded professionals. And, with PLANET’s recent focus on the specialty groups, you can feel the community and each group’s voice getting stronger within the association’s umbrella.
That’s an impressive list of accomplishments for five years and a definite cause for celebration.
What can PLANET members expect down the road? What will this organization look like five years from now? Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball, and I will be only one of five volunteers to hold this position between now and then. But from my perspective, I envision membership to grow exponentially. I’ve called this “wild” growth because programs such as the previously mentioned Day of Service, STARS, and PLANET certification are just now hitting their stride. Customers, both in the private and government sectors, will one day soon demand that their landscape and lawn care professionals be certified. Insurance companies, already recognizing the impact of the STARS program, will provide added incentives and premium discounts for STARS members; and, only in its second year, the PLANET Day of Service has struck a community chord that resonates throughout the organization and the industry.
As these programs evolve, PLANET will naturally assume an even more prominent role both inside and outside of the industry. Strategic alliances with state associations and other green industry groups also comprise an important component of this trend. Our involvement with the Interior Industry Coalition (IIC) and the important role the group is playing with the LEED initiative, along with our close ties with the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), the American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA), and the Irrigation Association (IA) among other groups are just a few example of how partnering can be beneficial to the interests of individual groups and their members, and the industry as a whole.
Not to forget the partnership with OPEI that has brought GIC and GIE+EXPO together making this the largest green industry conference and trade show in the world, and all the sponsors of PLANET events that make Student Career Days, Executive Forum, Legislative Day on the Hill and Renewal & Remembrance, and GIC among other gatherings possible.
I think it’s important to realize that PLANET is not operating in a vacuum. Yes, we have an obligation to our members and providing them with excellent value for their membership dollar has been and will continue to be a top priority. Nevertheless, PLANET also has an obligation to the industry as a whole because a strong, professional, and well-respected industry is good for everyone.
The industry needs a strong voice to stand up to government regulation and legislation that threatens our very livelihood; PLANET’s mission is to be that voice. We are a very responsible industry. With our focus on continuous improvement and with the aid of technology, we will have no carbon footprint in the future. In fact, the green industry will help compensate for other industries that cannot figure out how to be sustainable.
Five years from now, I have high expectations that the industry will reap the fruits of our efforts. As safety awareness grows, look for our industry to drop off OSHA’s top 10 list of accident-prone industries to become one of its safest. Hopefully, our efforts on the immigration front will lead to a more equitable and effective guest worker program. Educational programs, training, and certification, along with greater awareness about the important role PLANET plays as an environmental steward, will continue to raise both the level of professionalism within the industry and appreciation for what we, as landscape and lawn care professionals, do for a living.