Small landscaping companies must adapt to post-drought market

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In response to an epic drought, more and more California residents are hiring landscaping companies to replace water-hogging turf with landscapes that are more environmentally in step with the state’s arid climate. But while business is good right now, some warn the drought will have larger, far-reaching consequences for the smaller businesses that are part of the state’s $2.5 billion landscaping industry.

University of California Irvine law professor Robert Solomon, who represents various community groups with help from his students, told the Orange County Register small landscaping companies will have to adapt to the new environment, just as their clients are. Many of the smaller businesses may suffer if they don’t have sufficient capital to invest in the equipment and training necessary to maintain the new, drought-tolerant landscapes.

“In the end, we’re spending more money – more money is changing hands,” Solomon says. “The question is: Is it to the same people? The guy who mows the lawn, if he’s working for someone else, can he keep his job? Can he do similar work? But if he’s on his own, that’s difficult.” Solomon predicts the landscaping companies that make it through to the other side of this drought are likely to be those that specifically market their ability to install and maintain drought-tolerant landscapes.

Richard Cohen, owner of Richard Cohen Landscape and Construction in Lake Forest, California, agrees. He told the OC Register, “A lot of those mow-and-blow type people, if they don’t take classes and learn how to manage systems and take care of drip irrigation systems, they’re going to be left out.”

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